Secret Cause of Bloodshot Eyes

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This skin problem may be the culprit

We've reported in the past on rosacea, the skin disease characterized by redness and acnelike symptoms on the nose, cheeks, chin, or forehead. Now a new survey shows that rosacea may be the unsuspected cause of numerous cases of chronically red or bloodshot eyes.

The medical term is ocular rosacea, and a recent survey by the National Rosacea Society indicates that as many as 58% of people with rosacea have the ocular version of it too. But you might not know it, since it's possible to have ocular rosacea without showing any skin symptoms: In 17% of patients surveyed, ocular rosacea symptoms occurred before any skin symptoms.

"Ocular rosacea is often overlooked by doctors and patients, because eye problems are not commonly associated with skin disorders," explains Larry Millikan, MD, professor and chairman of the dermatology department at Tulane University in New Orleans. "It is sometimes misdiagnosed as pinkeye, allergies, or blepharitis, an inflammation of the eyelids."

Symptoms, which include redness of the eyelids, swelling at the base of the lashes, red or bloodshot eyes, and a gritty sensation, are treated with antibiotics or prescription eyedrops containing, steroids. Once treated, symptoms do not generally get worse, says Dr. Millikan. If left untreated, ocular rosacea can cause vision impairment and even blindness in the most severe cases. If you suspect that you have ocular rosacea, see an ophthalmologist.

Flare-ups can be prevented by avoiding the common irritating factors for rosacea, such as sun exposure, stress, hot weather, hot or spicy foods, and alcohol. Over-the-counter artificial tear-type saline eyedrops can help to relieve symptoms by keeping the eyes well moisturized. (Avoid drops that are specifically for clearing up bloodshot eyes, since they can make symptoms worse.)

Quick Tip
If makeup worsens your symptoms, check for irritating ingredients such as sorbic acid or parabens.

PHOTO (COLOR): Don't let chronic eye problem go undiagnosed.

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By Brett Bara

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