Eye redness occurs when the vessels in your eye become
swollen or irritated. Redness of the eye, also called bloodshot
eyes, can indicate the presence of several different health
problems. While some of these problems are benign, others are serious and require
emergency medical attention. The redness of your eye may be a cause for
concern. However, most serious eye problems happen when you have redness along
with pain or changes in your vision.
are the common causes of eye redness?
The most common cause of eye redness is inflamed vessels on
the surface of the eye. Various irritants can cause this to occur, including:
- dry air
- exposure to the sun
- allergic reactions
- bacteria or viruses
Eyestrain or coughing can cause a specific condition known
as subconjunctival hemorrhage.
When this occurs, a blood blotch may appear in one eye. The condition may look
serious. However, if it’s not accompanied by pain, it will typically clear up
in seven to 10 days.
More serious causes of eye redness include infections. Infections
can occur in different structures of the eye and typically produce additional
symptoms such as pain, discharge, or changes in your vision.
Infections that can cause eye redness include:
- inflammation of the follicles of the eyelashes, called
- inflammation of the membrane that coats the eye, called
conjunctivitis or pinkeye
- ulcers that cover the eye, called corneal ulcers
- inflammation of the uvea, called uveitis
Other conditions that may cause eye redness include:
- trauma or injury to the eye
- a rapid increase in eye pressure that results in pain,
called acute glaucoma
- scratches of the cornea caused by irritants or overuse
of contact lenses
- bleeding problems
should you contact your doctor?
Most causes of eye redness do not warrant emergency medical
If you experience eye redness, you should make an
appointment to see your doctor if:
- your symptoms last longer than two days
- you experience changes in your vision
- you experience pain in your eye
- you become sensitive to light
- you have discharge from one or both of your eyes
- you take medications that thin your blood such as
heparin or warfarin
Even though most causes of eye redness are not severe, you should seek
emergency medical help if:
- your eye is red after trauma or injury
- you have a headache and have blurry vision
- you begin seeing white rings, or halos, around lights
- you experience nausea and vomiting
can the symptoms of eye redness be treated?
If your eye redness is caused by a medical condition such as
conjunctivitis or blepharitis, you may be able to treat your symptoms at home.
Warm compresses on the eye can help reduce the symptoms of these conditions.
You should also make sure that you wash your hands frequently, avoid wearing
makeup or contacts, and avoid touching the eye.
If your eye redness is accompanied by pain or changes in
vision, you need to see your doctor for treatment. Your doctor will ask you
about your symptoms, your current health conditions, and problems that may have
caused irritation to your eye. Your doctor may also examine your eye and use a
saline solution to wash out any irritants in your eye.
Depending on your diagnosis, your doctor may prescribe
treatment that helps to alleviate your symptoms. This would likely include
antibiotics, eye drops, and home care as described above. In some cases, where
the eye is very irritated, your doctor may suggest wearing a patch to limit
light exposure and help your eye heal.
are the complications of eye redness?
Most causes of eye redness will not result in serious
complications. If you have an infection that causes vision changes, this may
affect your ability to perform basic tasks such as cooking or driving. Vision
impairments in these areas can result in accidental injury. Infections that are
not treated may also result in permanent damage to the eye. If eye redness does
not resolve in two days, you should call your doctor.
can you prevent eye redness?
Most cases of eye redness can be prevented by using proper
hygiene and avoiding irritants that can cause redness.
Follow these tips to prevent eye redness:
- Wash your hands if you’re exposed to someone who has an
- Remove all makeup from your eyes each day.
- Do not wear contact lenses longer than recommended.
- Clean your contact lenses regularly.
- Avoid activities that can cause eyestrain.
- Avoid substances that can cause your eyes to become
- If your eye becomes contaminated, flush it out
immediately with water.