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Child with Itchy Red Eye and ‘Blood Shot’ Eyes

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Itchy Red Eye symptoms, like a red eye, itchiness of the eye or swollen eyelids, may often be acute in children, related to injuries or irritation while at play or acute allergic reactions  to objects they touch. However a recurring or persistent itchy eye with redness should always be investigated by a doctor as it can be an indication of more serious trauma or infection.

The lining of the eye,  known as the sclera or ‘white of the eye’, is a sensitive part of the body as it does not have a protective covering like the skin, shielding it from the outside environment. The sclera has an extensive vascular network which is not clearly visible unless there is vasodilation (opening of the blood vessels) that supplies the tissue. In these instances, the vessels become visible  and is often referred to as ‘red eye’. In severe cases, the entire sclera appears red, not just the vessels, giving the typical ‘blood shot’ appearance to the outer eye.

Itchy, Red Eye – Common Causes and Symptoms

  • Conjunctivitis (‘pink eye’) may affect one or both eyes and is usually caused by a viral infection. Conjunctivitis is not seasonal but is easily spread among kids in child care or school and may ‘break out’ like a small epidemic in the area.
  • Hay fever (allergic rhinitis), is an allergic condition where the mucus membrane of the nose reacts to certain stimuli. The typical symptom of sneezing, itchy, runny or stuffed nose or watery eyes is often seen as the main symptom. However itching and redness of the eye, especially at night, is common.
  • Eye injury often caused by blunt force trauma may happen after falls and impact. The eyelid or orbit may become swollen, leading to a ‘blue or black’ eye within a day or two. Usually only one eye is affected and the child is usually in pain and there is an identifiable cause of the injury.
  • Hordoleum (’stye’) is caused by a Staphylococcus aureus infection and is usually accompanied by a swelling of the eyelid, especially just one portion of the eyelid. It may also be evident at the corner of the eye. The itching of the hordoleum causes the child to rub the eye excessively, thereby irritating the surrounding tissue which causes itching and redness of the eye.
  • Orbital cellulitis is a more serious infection of the tissue around the eye, that may spread to the eyeball itself. The entire eye may appear swollen and red and medical treatment is required immediately. The child may also have a high fever.
  • Dryness of the eye may result from air conditioning or windy conditions and will eventually cause redness and itching. The child usually reports the ‘dry eye’ or complains of ’sand in the eyes’, similar to an allergy.
  • Eyesight disorders and eye strain may also be responsible for red itchy eyes and this is becoming an increasing cause of eye irritation as children spend more time on the computer, playing video games or watching TV. Blurred vision is a common symptom.
Blood shot eyes

The eye is easily prone to injury and irritation and any persistent eye symptoms must be attended to in order to prevent possible complications to vision in the long run. Treatment is usually based on the causes of the itching and redness of the eye and using OTC (over-the-counter) eye drops to palliate the symptoms is not advisable unless prescribed by a medical doctor.

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