One thing people with blue, green, and brown eyes have in common is the rest of their eye is white. But sometimes that white portion may turn red or yellow. What does that mean? Read on as we tell you what these colors signify and what treatment you should seek.

Why are my eyes red?

Red eyes are common, and are caused when the blood vessels in the sclera – or white portion of the eye – swell or bleed. In many cases, this is painless, although there are also cases where your eye may hurt, itch, or release a discharge.

There are many causes of red eyes, including:

Ophthalmologist Robert Flores, MD

Treatment of a red eye depends on the underlying cause. For example, if it’s allergies, you should get an allergy test and a proper course of treatment for whatever is causing your symptoms. If you wear contact lenses, make sure you clean them and don’t over-wear them. Something more serious like pink eye or infection may require medicine, CEENTA Ophthalmologist Robert Flores, MD, said. It’s important that you see a doctor for a proper diagnosis before beginning any treatment.

Why are my eyes yellow?

Yellow eyes, on the other hand, indicate one very specific symptom: jaundice. Jaundice is when a waste substance called bilirubin is not properly expelled from the body, causing it to leach into the skin and eyes, especially the whites of the eyes.

Jaundice is very common in newborns because their livers are still developing, and it usually goes away on its own in the first few weeks of life, Dr. Flores said. In adults, however, it’s the sign of an improperly working liver, gallbladder, pancreas, or other organs. This can be caused by a variety of conditions, including:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Hepatitis B or C
  • Liver cancer, infection, or disease
  • A blocked bile duct
  • Gallbladder cysts, tumors, or inflammation
  • Gallstones
  • Bile duct diseases
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Some genetic conditions

If you or your eye doctor notices your eyes are turning yellow, we urge you to make a follow-up appointment with an internal medicine specialist, gastroenterologist, or hepatologist. They will be able to properly diagnose the condition causing your jaundice through a physical exam and bloodwork, and help you develop a treatment plan.

While red or yellow eyes might be a cause for concern, speaking with a medical professional can help you get the care you need to make your eyes turn white again.

Dr. Flores practices in our SouthPark and Matthews offices. To make an appointment with him or any of CEENTA’s eye doctors, call 704-295-3000. You can also request an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.

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