Eye Redness Causes and Treatments

Eye redness is when blood vessels near the surface of the eye (for example, red veins in your eyes) become swollen. The most common causes of red and bloodshot eyes are painless, but serious conditions (like a corneal ulcer) can be quite painful.

You can develop bloodshot eyes temporarily after drinking alcohol, staring at a computer screen too long, or forgetting to change your contact lenses. But bloodshot eyes also can be caused by an eye injury or eye infection, which can sometimes lead to a red, bloodshot eye on one side.

This article will discuss the most common causes of bloodshot eyes and what you can do about each one. Of course, it is always best to seek the advice of your eye healthcare provider, but there are a few red eye home remedies you can try in the meantime for relief.

Illustration by Brianna Gilmartin for Verywell Health


When to See a Healthcare Provider

Bloodshot eyes are most commonly due to harmless causes that will resolve on their own, even without treatment. This includes the following:

  • Wearing contact lenses
  • Using eye drops too frequently
  • Staring at a computer screen for long hours
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Swimming
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Using alcohol or cannabis
  • Being pregnant
  • Photokeratitis

It’s best to seek medical attention if eye redness or bloodshot eyes are accompanied by certain symptoms, including:

  • Yellow, brown, or green crust in the eyes
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Light sensitivity
  • Fever
  • Symptoms lasting more than one week
  • Exposure to pink eye

Allergies, pink eye, blepharitis, and dry eye syndrome are also common causes of bloodshot eyes. While they are not cause for concern, you may need OTC or prescription medication to ease your symptoms. COVID can cause you to have red eyes, too, but the symptom should resolve as you recover from COVID.

If you think you may have one of the following conditions, you should get medical attention as soon as possible to prevent serious complications:

  • Uveitis
  • Eye injury
  • Corneal ulcer
  • Subconjunctival hemorrhage
  • Acute angle-closure glaucoma
  • Episcleritis

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience vision changes, floaters in your eyes, light flashes, a foreign body sensation in your eye, signs of infection, eye pain, or any other eye symptoms that concern you.

Summary

Bloodshot eyes can result from many things. Most often, the things that cause dry, red, irritated eyes are minor and can be treated at home.

Over-the-counter artificial tears can help to quickly resolve bloodshot eyes in many cases. Taking an antihistamine for seasonal allergies, placing a cool compress over closed eyes, avoiding irritants such as cigarette smoke, using a dehumidifier, and practicing good hygiene with frequent hand washing and clean linens are all practices that help relieve red eyes.

However, other causes of red eyes can be more serious and threaten your vision and overall health. So, it’s always best to consult your healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When should someone consult a physician about bloodshot eyes?

    It’s best to seek medical attention if eye redness or bloodshot eyes are accompanied by certain symptoms, including:

    • Yellow, brown, or green crust in the eyes
    • Pain or tenderness
    • Light sensitivity
    • Fever
    • Symptoms lasting more than one week
    • Exposure to pink eye

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