Many of the common causes of red eye can be recognised and treated in primary care using a diagnostic framework that includes a few key questions and assessments. However, decisive referral for specialist ophthalmology assessment and treatment may be required.
Eye conditions are a relatively common presentation in Australian general practice, comprising 2% of all patient encounters.1 Of the eye conditions seen by general practitioners, most can present as ‘red eye’.2,3 The causes of red eye are many and range from acute to chronic, and self-limiting to sight-threatening. Most GPs have access to an ophthalmoscope, topical fluorescein and local anaesthetic drops to help with examination and diagnosis in patients with a red eye. This article aims to provide a simple diagnostic framework that helps GPs conceptualise the causes of red eye. The use of algorithms has been shown to improve diagnostic accuracy among primary care clinicians in patients with red eye.4,5 This diagnostic algorithm starts by considering whether the condition is bilateral or unilateral.