How to treat painful, red, and sensitive eyes with irritation?

Q. My right eye is red, painful and sensitive to light with irritation. Please help.

Answered by
Dr. Rodney John Smith
and medically reviewed by Dr. Vinodhini. J
This is a premium question & answer published on Apr 10, 2020 and last reviewed on: Jul 25, 2023

Hello doctor,

I am a 31-year-old female. My right eye is red and very sensitive to light. It is painful while I move the eyeballs. Center of the eye is paining with irritation.



Welcome to

A couple of things come to mind when an eye presents like you described red, painful, photophobic. The first one is an eye inflammation, officially called an anterior uveitis.

The Probable causes:

This is usually an isolated incident. It is considered idiopathic, which is just a fancy way of saying we do not know what causes it. If there is a history of this happening before sometimes lab work is ordered to rule out various diseases. Those might include things like Crohn's disease or Sarcoidosis or Spondyloarthritis.

Investigations to be done:

For an anterior uveitis there is nothing over the counter (OTC) to treat it. A visit to an eye doctor to confirm this tentative diagnosis is in order.

Differential diagnosis:

If you are a contact lens wearer this could be a corneal ulcer, those present the same way as an anterior uveitis.

Probable diagnosis:

Anterior uveitis.

Treatment plan:

Again, there is nothing over the counter for this. If you indeed have an anterior uveitis it would need to be treated with prescription steroid drops. And we need to be careful with steroid drops, if you have an eye infection the steroid will make the eye infection much worse. And steroid drops have other side effects that need to be monitored, they can cause cataracts and they can cause an increase in the eye pressure (putting the patient at risk for glaucoma).

Preventive measures:

Nothing can be done to prevent this.

Regarding follow up:

This does not appear to be self-limiting. I am happy to give you all this information but follow up with a doctor is definitely the next step.

Thank you doctor,

How serious could it be? We are in lockdown mode and going out to meet a doctor might be tuff. How urgently we have to meet the doctor? Can we delay it or use some drops which you suggest?



Welcome back to

Yes, the lockdown does complicate things. If it is anterior uveitis like I suspect, then it should resolve on its own. It just might be painful during that time. You can take over the counter pain medicine like Alleve for that.

If your vision is not affected, then it might be fine to wait. If your vision is getting worse, you would want to make every effort to see a physician. No OTC drops for this. But, again, for the pain, you can use OTCs.

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