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Common causes of red eye presenting at an ophthalmic clinic

JN Ubah
CO Adeoti
MA Isawumi


Background: Redness of the eye is a common ophthalmic symptom. The problem causing redness could arise from within or outside the globe. These range from cases of simple inflammation following itching and minor trauma for example, to severe cases like orbital cellulitis and tumours. Patients may not even be aware of the redness. The aim of this study is to highlight the common causes of red eye as seen in an outpatient department in an ophthalmic set up. This should be of immense help to the general medical practitioners to whom the patients often first present.

Methods: All patients presenting for the first time to Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Teaching Hospital over a four month period were screened. 117 had red eyes and were recruited. 125 eyes were found to be red. The characteristics of the redness were then studied to determine the cause.

Results: There was a male preponderance, M: F of 2:1. Persons 45years and below, were most commonly involved 88(66.67%). The most frequent cause of red eye was trauma, in 48(41.03%)patients, followed by allergic conjunctivitis in 29(24.77%). The main causes of redness differed in different age groups and occupation. There was no case of angle closure glaucoma seen as a cause of redness.

Conclusion: There are diverse causes of redness of the eye. Persons who are not eye specialists to whom patients with red eyes present first should be conversant with the causes, to know what action to take, especially when to refer to the eye specialist.

Keywords: red eye, common causes, eye clinic

Nigerian Journal of Medicine Vol. 15(2) 2006: 144-147