Red Eyes: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Red eyes, also known as bloodshot eyes,  can be caused by irritation or injury. Some of these causes are harmless and can be treated at home, while others can be more serious and need medical help. If you have pain, fever, blurred vision, discharge, or other symptoms along with your red eye, see an eye doctor.

Red Eyes

Table of Contents

What is a Red Eye

A red eye is a general term to describe red, irritated, and bloodshot eyes. It happens when tiny blood vessels under the eye’s surface become larger or inflamed. This is usually a reaction to something irritating the eye.

Redness can affect one or both eyes and can develop over time or appear suddenly, such as with allergies or an eye injury.

Other symptoms of red eyes include:

    • Eye pain

    • Itching

    • Eye discharge

    • Swollen eyes

    • Changes in vision, such as blurred vision

If you have red eyes, it is important to see a doctor to determine the cause and get the appropriate treatment.

Why Are My Eyes Red? Let’s Find Out!

1. Allergies:

Red, swollen eyes? Allergies might be the culprit. 

You could also experience:

  • Itchy eyes
  • A burning feeling 
  • Watery eyes

Common triggers? Pollen, pet hair, dust, or even cigarette smoke.

2. Dry Eyes:

When our eyes don’t make enough tears, they can turn red. This is more common among women, older folks, and contact lens wearers. You might also feel:

  • Burning
  • Scratchiness
  • Blurred vision at times

3. Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis):

This is when the whites of our eyes turn pink or red. Signs include:

  • Itchy eyes
  • Burning feeling 
  • Crusty eyelids
  • Watery eyes

4. Blepharitis:

Red, swollen eyelids? This is usually because of bacteria or clogged oil glands near the eyelids. Other symptoms are:

  • Itching
  • Crusty eyelids when you wake up
  • A stinging feeling 

5. Uveitis:

This is a less common reason for red eyes. It affects the middle layer of the eye. Look out for:

  • Blurry vision
  • Eye pain
  • Light sensitivity 

6. Scleritis:

This affects the white part of our eyes, often due to autoimmune diseases. Other signs are:

  • Tenderness or pain 
  • Blurred vision
  • Light sensitivity 

7. Burst Blood Vessel (Subconjunctival Hemorrhage):

Sounds scary, but it’s usually harmless and clears up on its own. It looks like a red spot in the eye. 

8. Eyelid Stye:

This is like a pimple on your eyelid. It can cause:

  • Pain 
  • Swelling 
  • Redness 

9. Glaucoma:

A dangerous condition where eye pressure increases and could damage vision. Symptoms can be:

  • Severe eye pain 
  • Blurry vision 
  • Seeing rainbow-colored rings

10. Corneal Ulcers:

Sores on the outer layer of the eye. Keep an eye out (pun intended) for:

  • Severe pain
  • Blurry vision
  • Pus discharge 

11. Injury:

Physical harm to the eye can cause redness, pain, or even blurry vision. 

12. Contact Lens Issues: 

Contact wearers might experience red eyes due to:

  • Scratches on the eye
  • Allergies
  • Infections

There are more reasons like alcohol use, sun exposure, or even some infections. If your eyes are red, especially with pain or vision issues, always check with a doctor.

How Serious Are Red Eyes?

Red eyes can sometimes look scarier than they feel. In many situations, they’re pretty harmless and can be soothed with some home care or a quick trip to the drugstore.

However, if that redness sticks around for more than a week or comes with pain or vision issues, it’s time to ring up an eye expert. Whether it’s an ophthalmologist (an eye doctor) or an optometrist, they’ll help you out. Remember, while red eyes are often nothing to fret about, sometimes they might hint at a bigger issue. Better safe than sorry!

When It’s More Serious

If the redness comes with pain or vision changes, it’s time to chat with a doctor. They might:

1. Check your eyes and ask about your symptoms.

2. Recommend treatments like:

  •    Steroid eye drops
  •    Antimicrobial eye drops or medicines
  •    Special eye drops for allergies or dry eyes

3. In extreme cases, suggest laser procedures for specific eye conditions.

Always trust your gut. If something feels off, better to check with a pro!

Ease Your Red Eyes with These Fixes

For Mild Cases (Allergies, Conjunctivitis, Blepharitis):

1. Cool Compress: 

Gently press a cool cloth on your closed eyes a few times a day. It helps calm the redness and puffiness.

2. Over-the-Counter (OTC) Relief: 

Grab some OTC antihistamines or decongestants; they can help with red eyes. If you’re in pain or feeling swollen, over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen might do the trick.

3. Artificial Tears:

These handy drops can soothe your eyes and wash away irritants. For extra comfort, keep them cool in the fridge.

4. Steer Clear of Irritants:

 While you heal, try to avoid things like pollen, smoke, or chemical fumes.

5. Clean Hands: 

Wash your hands frequently and, if they’re not squeaky clean, try not to touch your eyes.

6. No Makeup or Contacts:

Give your eyes a break and wait until the redness disappears before using makeup or contact lenses.

7. Less Screen Time:

If you’ve been glued to screens, remember to take breaks. Too much screen time can strain your eyes.

Complications of Red Eyes: What You Need to Know

In most cases, red eyes don’t bring about serious problems.

However, if your red eyes come with vision changes, that might impact daily tasks like cooking or driving, which could lead to accidents.

Neglecting to treat certain eye issues can cause lasting harm, potentially leading to vision loss. Conditions like untreated eye infections, angle-closure glaucoma, and eye injuries fall into this category. 

So, if you notice persistent redness or vision changes, it’s smart to get professional help.

Keep Those Eyes Bright and Clear with These Tips!

Want to avoid red eyes? Keeping them clean and steering clear of irritants is key. Here’s how you can keep those peepers looking fresh:

1. Hand Hygiene: Wash your hands often, especially if you’ve been around someone with an eye infection.

2. Makeup Rules: Always take off your eye makeup before hitting the sack.

3. Contact Lens Care: Don’t over-wear your contacts, and always take them out before sleeping. Remember to give them a good clean and avoid wearing them while swimming.

4. Be Kind to Your Eyes: Take breaks if you’re doing something for long periods, like reading or staring at a screen. It’ll prevent eye strain.

5. Steer Clear of Irritants: If you find yourself around substances that might annoy your eyes, stay cautious. And if you accidentally get something in your eye? Rinse it out straight away, preferably with eyewash or, in a pinch, some clean water.

Take good care of those eyes, and they’ll look bright and happy in return!

What does a red eye look and feel like?

Sometimes, your eye is red where it should be white. This might happen if the blood vessels inside your eye swell when they become irritated. In some cases, a tiny blood vessel might break open.

If your eye becomes red from an injury, the blood vessels in your eye dilate (open) to allow more blood to get to the site for quicker healing. These wide-open blood vessels are what cause the red eye.

Depending on what’s going on, your red eye can feel:

    • Completely normal. In this case, you don’t know it’s red till you see it.

    • Itchy or irritated, like something is in your eye.

    • Tender.

    • Very watery or very dry.

    • Goopy or crusty, especially if there’s pus from an infection.

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Red Eyes for Too Long

Most of the time, red eyes are more of an annoyance than a serious concern. They might just need a day or two to calm down. But sometimes, they can be a warning sign.

If that redness sticks around for more than a couple of days, or if your little one has red eyes, it’s a good idea to reach out to a healthcare expert. Eye pain or any gooey stuff coming out? That’s another sign to get checked.

See, ignoring a persistent red eye might sometimes risk your vision, especially if there’s an underlying issue. Always better to be safe and get things sorted!

When to Ring Up Your Doc About Red Eyes

Red eyes often sort themselves out. But sometimes, they can hint at something more serious. Think about giving your eye doctor a shout if:

    • Your eyes kinda hurt to touch.

    • You’re not seeing as clearly as usual.

    • Bright lights suddenly feel like too much.

    • That redness is sticking around for over a week or seems to be getting crankier.

    • You’re waking up with a crusty eye situation.

    • You’re feeling feverish or just generally yucky alongside the eye trouble.

And hey, if you have red eyes PLUS any of the below, it’s a good idea to call up your doc ASAP:

    • Proper eye pain.

    • A dislike for bright lights.

    • Puffiness around the eyes.

    • Vision that’s gone a bit blurry.

Your eyes are super important, so if they’re giving you any signals, it’s worth listening to!

Eye redness in dogs

Eye redness is a common problem in dogs. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

    • Infection: Conjunctivitis (pink eye) is the most common eye infection in dogs. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites.

    • Allergies: Allergies to pollen, dust mites, and other allergens are also common causes of eye redness in dogs.

    • Dry eye: Dry eye is another common cause of eye redness in dogs. It can be caused by a number of factors, including aging, certain medications, and underlying medical conditions.

    • Eyelid problems: Eyelid problems such as ectropion and entropion can also cause eye redness in dogs.

    • Foreign bodies: Foreign bodies such as grass seeds, dirt, and dust can get stuck in a dog’s eye and cause redness, irritation, and discharge.

    • Trauma: Eye trauma, such as getting hit in the eye or scratched by a cat, can also cause redness and other eye problems in dogs.

If you notice that your dog’s eyes are red, it is important to take them to the veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and get the appropriate treatment.

Here are some tips for preventing eye redness in dogs:

    • Keep your dog’s environment clean and free of allergens.

    • Brush your dog’s fur regularly to remove any dirt or debris that could get into their eyes.

    • Wipe your dog’s eyes with a damp cloth daily to remove any discharge.

    • If your dog has a history of eye problems, talk to your veterinarian about using artificial tears or other eye drops to help keep their eyes moist and healthy.

If you notice any other symptoms in addition to eye redness, such as discharge, pain, or swelling, it is important to take your dog to the veterinarian immediately.

Treatment for eye redness in dogs

Treatment for eye redness in dogs will vary depending on the underlying cause. For example, if the eye redness is caused by allergies, the veterinarian may prescribe eye drops or oral medication to reduce inflammation and itching. If the eye redness is caused by an infection, the veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or antiviral medication. If the eye redness is caused by an injury, the veterinarian may need to remove the foreign body or perform other treatment to repair the injury.

In some cases, eye redness in dogs may be a sign of a more serious underlying medical condition. For example, eye redness can be a symptom of diabetes, kidney disease, or liver disease. If your dog’s eye redness is accompanied by other symptoms, such as lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea, it is important to take them to the veterinarian right away.


Red eyes can be a real head-turner, but they’re not always cause for alarm. In fact, most cases of redness are pretty harmless and can often be soothed with a bit of care at home.

However, it’s crucial to keep an eye out for any signs that things might be more serious. If the redness sticks around for too long, if your vision goes wonky, or if you start feeling extra sensitive to light, it’s time to chat with a healthcare pro.

Your eyes are precious, and they’re not the sort of thing to take chances with. So if you’ve got red eyes and you’re not sure, remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.


Here are some additional tips for preventing red eyes:

  • Wash your hands frequently to avoid spreading germs to your eyes.
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes.
  • Avoid allergens if you have allergies.
  • Remove your contact lenses before bed.
  • Get regular eye exams.

If only one eye is red, it is possible that you have an object in your eye, such as a piece of dust or a contact lens. It is also possible that you have a bacterial infection of the eyelids and skin around them, called palpebral cellulitis. Palpebral cellulitis can make the eyelids very red and swollen.

If you have one red eye and other symptoms, such as pain, discharge, or changes in vision, see a doctor to rule out other possible causes.

Red eyes can be caused by a variety of conditions, including conjunctivitis, corneal ulcers, dry eye syndrome, and blepharitis.

However, red eyes alone are usually not a cause for concern.

Stress can cause red eyes by making your body produce adrenaline, which can lead to tension and dry eyes. Both of these things can make your eyes red.

Red eyes are usually caused by allergies, eye strain, overwearing contact lenses, or common eye infections like pink eye (conjunctivitis). However, sometimes red eyes can be a sign of a more serious eye condition, such as uveitis or glaucoma.

Salt water can help to relieve red eyes caused by irritation or infection. To do this, mix 1 teaspoon of salt in half a liter of cooled boiled water. Dip a cotton swab in the solution and wipe your eyes from the corner to the nose. Discard the swab after each use. Repeat this several times until the eye irritation settles.

Oversleeping can cause red eyes because your eyes may produce fewer tears during sleep. This can make your eyes feel dry and red when you wake up. If you have dry eye syndrome, you may notice that your eyes are redder in the morning when you oversleep.

Dehydration can also cause red eyes because it can dry out your eyes. This can irritate your eyes and make them red. Drinking plenty of water can help to prevent dry eyes and keep your eyes healthy.

There is no permanent cure for dry eyes, but there are treatments that can help relieve the symptoms and protect your vision.

The fastest way to cure an eye infection depends on the type of infection. For bacterial infections, antibiotics are usually the fastest way to cure the infection. For viral infections, antiviral medications may be used. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the infected tissue.

If you have an eye infection, it is important to see a doctor to determine the type of infection and get the appropriate treatment.

Most red eyes go away within a few hours or days.

The best eye drops for red eyes vary depending on the cause of the redness, but here are a few of the most popular options:

  • LUMIFY Redness Reliever Eye Drops: These drops contain brimonidine, which is a medication that causes the blood vessels in the eyes to constrict. This can help to reduce redness and swelling.
  • Rohto Cool Max Maximum Redness Relief Cooling Eye Drops: These drops contain menthol, which can help to provide a cooling sensation and relieve irritation.
  • Visine Red Eye Total Comfort Multi-Symptom Eye Drops: These drops contain tetrahydrozoline, which is a medication that helps to constrict blood vessels and reduce redness. They also contain other ingredients that can help to soothe irritated eyes and reduce dryness.

It is important to note that these drops should only be used for short periods of time, as overuse can lead to rebound redness. If you have red eyes that persist for more than a few days, you should see a doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions.