Teary query

Dear Lucy: My right eye is very red, but it’s not itchy, so I don’t think I have “pinkeye”/conjunctivitis. However, I do feel some pain, or maybe pressure, which bothers me enough that that eye releases some tears occasionally. Any idea what this might be? —Red Eye

Illustration of a teary, bloodshot eye

Dear Red: According to Lucy’s number-one “eye guy,” MIT Medical Eye Service Chief Robert Gross, a red eye occurs when conjunctival blood vessels—the blood vessels just under your eye’s clear surface—dilate in response to inflammation or infection. “Red eye is a ‘non-specific sign’ with a number of possible causes,” Gross says. “It could be dryness, allergies, viruses, bacteria, or a host of inflammatory conditions.”
In any case, the tearing you’ve observed is to be expected, he tells Lucy. “The eye will often tear in response to any of these conditions in an attempt to soothe itself. But since a myriad of conditions can cause the symptoms this reader describes, a careful examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist would be required to determine the exact etiology.”
Both Lucy and Gross encourage you to call MIT Medical’s Eye Service or another eye-care professional promptly, and make an appointment to have that eye checked out. Get a diagnosis and appropriate treatment recommendations, so you can wipe away your tears and get rid of that red eye for good. —Lucy

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