SymptomChecker

There are 32 possible causes of eye redness

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What Is Eye Redness?

Eye redness occurs when the vessels in your eye become swollen or irritated. Redness of the eye, also called bloodshot eyes, or pink eye 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.

What Are the Common Underlying Causes of Eye Redness?

The most common causes of eye redness happen when the vessels on the surface of the eye become inflamed. Various irritants can cause this to occur including:

  • dry air
  • exposure to the sun
  • dust
  • allergic reactions
  • colds
  • bacteria or viruses
  • coughing

Eyestrain or coughing can cause a specific condition known as subconjunctival hemorrhage. When this occurs, a blood blotch may appear in one eye. Even though the condition looks serious, if it is not accompanied by pain, it will typically clear up in a week 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 (blepharitis)
  • inflammation of the membrane that coats the eye (conjunctivitis/pinkeye)
  • ulcers that cover the eye (corneal ulcers)
  • inflammation of the uvea (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 (acute glaucoma)
  • scratches of the cornea caused by irritants or overuse of contact lenses
  • bleeding problems

When Should You Contact Your Doctor?

Most causes of eye redness do not warrant emergency medical attention. 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 following trauma or injury
  • you experience a headache and have blurry vision
  • you begin seeing white rings (halos) around lights
  • you experience nausea and vomiting

How 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 may 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 will be able to 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 encourage healing.

What Are the Complications of Eye Redness?

Most causes of eye redness will not result in serious complications. If, however, you have an infection that causes vision changes, this may affect your ability to perform basic daily 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.

How Can You Prevent Eye Redness?

Most cases of eye redness can be prevented by using proper hygiene and avoiding irritants that can cause redness. Examples include:

  • Wash your hands if you are exposed to someone who has an eye infection.
  • 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 irritated.
  • If your eye becomes contaminated, flush it out immediately with water.

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Possible Causes - Listed in order from the most common to the least.

1

Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Conjunctivitis, or "pink eye," is an infection or swelling in the eye area that causes inflammation of the conjunctiva, giving the eye a red or pink color.

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2

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are severely painful headaches that occur in cycles. They start suddenly and occur on one side of the head. Additional symptoms include face and eye redness and nausea.

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3

Corneal Abrasion

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A minor scratch to the eye's cornea is called a corneal abrasion. It can be caused by dust, contact lenses, or other foreign objects, and can sometimes develop into a serious eye condition.

Read more »

4

Uveitis

Swelling of the uvea, the middle layer of the eye, is called uveitis. It is often associated with infections or autoimmune diseases, and can cause blurry vision, eye pain, and floaters.

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5

Scleritis

Scleritis is severe inflammation of the sclera, the eye's outer protective layer. It usually causes pain, and can sometimes cause vision loss.

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6

Allergies Overview

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

An allergy is the immune system's response to a foreign substance (allergen) that is not typically harmful to a person's body. This attack response may involve inflammation, sneezing, and a host of other symptoms.

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7

Toxic Shock Syndrome

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Toxic shock syndrome is a rare, serious condition caused by a bacterial infection. Rash is one of several common signs for this symptom.

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8

External Eyelid Stye (Hordeolum Externum)

An external eyelid stye is an inflamed area or bump on the eyelid. The medical term for a stye is hordeolum externum . Styes are red, painful lumps (most look like pimples) near the edge of the eyelid, where th...

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9

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a term for several eye conditions that can damage your optic nerve. It has many types, and over time it can lead to vision loss.

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10

Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome is a condition in which the eyes cannot produce a sufficient amount of tears. This can lead to irritation and eye redness. Causes can include medications, allergies, and hormone replacement therapy.

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11

Allergic Conjunctivitis

When your eyes are exposed to substances like pollen or mold spores, they may become red, itchy and watery. These symptoms mean you have allergic conjunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis refers to eye inflammatio...

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12

Marijuana Dependence

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. Uncontrollable or overly frequent marijuana consumption may indicate abuse or addiction.

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13

Bleeding Under Conjunctiva (Subconjunctival Hemmorhage)

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

If you have bleeding under your conjunctiva (also known as a subconjunctival hemorrhage) it means that blood has collected under the transparent tissue that covers the white of your eye.Numerous tiny blood vessels ar...

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14

Pterygium

A pterygium is a growth that develops on the conjunctiva or mucous membrane that covers the white part of your eye. It is a benign or noncancerous growth that is often shaped like a wedge. In some cases, a pterygium ca...

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15

Corneal Ulcer

At the front of the eye is a clear layer of tissue called the cornea. The cornea is the window of your eye and permits light to enter the eye. Tears constitute the natural defense against bacteria, viruses, or fungi fo...

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16

Hyphema

A hyphema is a pooling or collection of blood inside the anterior chamber of the eye (the space between the cornea and the iris). The blood may cover most or all of the iris and the pupil, blocking vision partially o...

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17

Eyelid Turned In (Entropion)

Entropion refers to a condition in which your eyelid rotates inward. Your eyelashes rub against your eye and cause redness, irritation, and abrasions on the cornea of your eye.Entropion, or eyelid retraction, develop...

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18

Reactive Arthritis (Reiter's Syndrome)

Reiter's syndrome, also known as reactive arthritis or post-infectious arthritis, produces inflammation, swelling, and pain in the joints due to infection elsewhere in the body. Other parts of the body may also b...

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19

Weils Disease

Weil's disease is a severe form of a bacterial infection known as leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is caused by bacteria from the genus Leptospira. In severe cases, such as in Weil's disease, it can lead to organ failur...

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20

Ebola Virus and Disease

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Ebola disease-also called Ebola hemorrhagic fever or Ebola fever-is a rare and often fatal illness that humans and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys and gorillas) can contract. There have been several outbreaks o...

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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