By May Wong Ek Su, SIECRC

“Red eye” is a general term commonly used to describe a red, irritated and bloodshot eye. The red colour is caused by dilated and tortuous blood vessels on the white of the eye (sclera).  Red eye is common and can be caused by a variety of conditions such as ocular fatigue, allergy, dry eye or contact lens over-wear. It can also be due to infection of the conjunctiva (called conjunctivitis), the moist membrane that covers the white of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelids. However, red eye can be a red flag for more serious eye problems such as corneal ulcer, uveitis, ocular herpes or acute angle-closure glaucoma.

On 19 July 2017, Dr Joy Chan, Medical Director and Senior Consultant Ophthalmologist at International Eye Cataract Retina Centre gave a talk titled “Red Eye” to general practitioners (GPs) practising in the northeast region of Singapore. The talk was held at Swatow Restaurant, Serangoon Gardens Country Club, and was supported by an educational grant from Santen Pharmaceuticals.

Dr Chan shared with the GPs the common causes of red eye seen in GP clinics. One common cause of red eye is dry eye (also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca) which Dr Chan went into some detail including history taking, clinical examination, tests and management of the condition. Dry eye can be treated by a variety of methods including the use of lubricating or medicated eye drops and ointment as well as a minor procedure which can reduce tear drainage away from the eye (punctal plug insertion).

Dr Chan also covered less common but potentially serious eye conditions such as acute angle-closure glaucoma, which can be blinding if left untreated for several days. She shared some useful tips on how to diagnose this devastating condition in GP practices and when GP should refer patients for further treatment by ophthalmologists. Other potentially serious causes of red eye conditions which she covered included infection of the inside cavity of the eye (endophthalmitis), inflammation of the eye (uveitis) and eye trauma.

Dr Chan’s talk ended with a question and answer session. The GPs took the opportunity to ask Dr Chan questions not only about the topics covered but also on the management of other eye conditions that they have encountered in their practices. The entire learning session was a fruitful experience not only for the GPs but also for Dr Chan who enjoyed the camaraderie with her medical colleagues.