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Eye Redness Causes and Treatment

Medically reviewed by Victor Paulino, MD, DPBO · Ophthalmology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Den Alibudbud · Updated Dec 29, 2020

Eye Redness Causes and Treatment

Have you ever noticed that your eyes look red? Then there is a good chance that you may have bloodshot eyes. To help you learn what could have caused your condition and how you can deal with it, here is a quick guide on eye redness causes and treatment.

What Cause Red Eyes?

Red-eye is a term that describes bloodshot eyes. Typically, red eyes are painless and it happens when blood vessels that are near the eye’s surface become dilated and enlarged.

Red eyes can occasionally be harmless. However, red eyes could be a problem if it is accompanied by changes in your vision or pain. 

The most common cause of eye redness is dilated or swollen blood vessels. However, there are many common causes of eye redness, which can include:


If an irritant comes in contact with your eyes, it can make the vessels in your eyes inflamed. Some common examples of eye irritants can include:

  • Sun exposure
  • Dry air (in office buildings, arid climates, etc.)
  • Coughing 
  • Smoke (second-hand cigarette smoke, fire-related, etc.)
  • Viral or bacterial infections like measles
  • Colds
  • Allergic reactions
  • Dust
  • Chemical exposure, such as swimming in a chlorinated pool
  • Airborne fumes (solvents, gasoline, etc.)

Simple Eye Exercises to Prevent Eye Strain


Coughing or eye strain could also cause a subconjunctival hemorrhage. When you get a subconjunctival hemorrhage, it means that a small blood vessel breaks right under the clear eye surface.

If you get a subconjunctival hemorrhage, you may have a bright red blood patch on the white part of your eye. While it may look serious, it typically goes away on its own after 7 to 10 days. However, it is best to seek medical attention if you experience eye pain. 

Eye infections

Infections could be the more serious cause of eye infections. An infection can happen in various eye structures, and the symptoms can include changes in vision, discharge, or pain. 

Some infections that could cause eye redness include:

  • Uveitis, which is uvea inflammation
  • Corneal ulcers, which are wounds in the outer part of your eye
  • Pink eye or conjunctivitis, which is the inflammation of your membrane that coats your eye
  • Blepharitis, which is inflammation of the eyelash follicles 

Other possible causes

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Injury or trauma to the eye
  • Marijuana use
  • Eyelid styes
  • Scratches on your cornea that are caused by overuse of contacts or irritants
  • Bleeding problems
  • Acute glaucoma, which causes a quick increase in your eye pressure and which is associated with eye pain and headache. This can lead to permanent blindness

What Could Happen if I Ignore Eye Redness?

In most cases, eye redness will not lead to any serious complications. However, if you notice any changes in your vision, it could signal bigger problems like glaucoma or uveitis. 

Untreated eye redness due to eye infections could also lead to permanent eye damage. The infection can penetrate deeper into the interior parts of the eye, which could lead to very serious conditions like endophthalmitis.

What Remedies Can I Use for Eye Redness?

The causes of your red eyes would normally determine how you can treat them. However, some common home remedies that could help relieve your symptoms include:

A warm or cool compress

Soak your towel in some warm water then wring it out. Be sure the water is not too hot because your eye would be sensitive. Put the towel on your eye for around 10 minutes. 

A warm compress could help increase blood flow to your eyes. However, if it does not work, you could opt for a cool (not too cold) compress instead. A cool compress could help relieve itchiness and inflammation. 

Change contact lenses

If you have chronic eye redness when you wear contact lenses, your lenses might be irritating. This can happen if you have not replaced your contact lenses for a while or have switched to a new brand. It would be best to consult a doctor regarding new prescriptions or change of brand. 

However, the problem could also be your contact lens solution. Some contact lens solutions will not work as well for certain contact lenses. 

Eye drops

Your doctor might recommend eye drops for you to use along with other home care treatments such as antibiotics. During your eye examination, they may also use a saline solution to wash out irritants in the eyes.

Overall Eye Health: All You Need to Know

How Can I Prevent Bloodshot Eyes?

Many cases of red eye could be prevented by avoiding irritants and observing proper hygiene. Some things you could do include:

  • Flushing your eyes out with water if your eye gets irritated
  • Avoiding substances that could irritate your eyes
  • Regularly cleaning your contact lenses
  • Avoiding activities that could cause eyestrain
  • Only wearing contact lenses for the recommended time
  • Removing eye makeup daily
  • Washing your hands when exposed to someone with an eye infection

When Should I See a Doctor?

Most bloodshot eyes will not need medical attention. However, it would be wise to visit a doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Symptoms for more than 1 week
  • You take blood-thinning medications like heparin
  • Observe discharge from your eyes
  • Pain in the eye
  • Light sensitivity
  • Changes in your vision

Additionally, there are severe symptoms that require immediate emergency medical attention. Some of those can include: 

  • Vomiting and nausea
  • You see halos or white rings around lights
  • Blurry vision
  • Headaches
  • You have red-eye due to injury or trauma

Key Takeaways

Most cases of bloodshot eyes are not serious and will heal on their own within a week or so. However, do seek immediate medical attention if you experience pain or vision changes along with the condition. 

Learn more about Eye Health here. 


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Victor Paulino, MD, DPBO

Ophthalmology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Den Alibudbud · Updated Dec 29, 2020

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