WHAT ARE RED EYES AND HOW TO TREAT THEM

What are Red eyes?

Red eye is a condition where the white surface of the eye (the sclera) has become reddened or bloodshot. When it comes to having a red eye, the appearance can vary. It can look like there are squiggly red lines on the sclera or the entire sclera will appear to look pink or red.

Red_eyes_Illustration_SpaMedica

What are Red eyes symptoms?

The red eye can occur either in both eyes or just one. Some of the symptoms to look out for are:

  • Irritation
  • Burning
  • Eye pain
  • Itchy eyes
  • Discharge
  • Bright red
  • Dryness
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurred vision
  • Watery eyes

What causes Red eyes?

The red eye is usually caused due to dilation of tiny blood vessels that are found between the sclera and conjunctiva part of the eye. Due to the environment or our lifestyles, the tiny blood vessels, which are usually visible can possibly become swollen.  

What usually causes the red eye? It can be due to eye fatigue, corneal ulcer, allergy, over wearing contact lenses or a common eye infection such as eye conjunctivitis. However, in a more serious eye condition, it can be because of uveitis or glaucoma. Check out what causes glaucoma and how you can treat it.    

Environmental causes of red eye include:

  • Air pollution
  • Airborne allergens
  • Smoke (second-hand cigarette smoking)
  • Dry air (office buildings)
  • Dust
  • Airborne fumes (petrol)
  • Chemical exposure
  • Too much exposure to sunlight (without the use of UV blocking sunglasses)

Common eye conditions that can cause red eyes include:

  • Dry eye syndrome
  • Eye allergies
  • Contact lens wear
  • Digital eye strain
  • Wearing contact lenses
  • Corneal ulcer
  • Eye Conjunctivitis (Pink eye)

Lifestyle factors that contribute to red eyes include:

  • Smoking (tobacco or marijuana)
  • Significant amount of alcohol consumption
  • Insufficient sleep
  • Overuse of digital devices (mobile phones and computers)

What to do if you have a Red eye?

Usually it is nothing serious if your eye problems have not had an affect on your eyes or they do not hurt. It can get better on its own within a few days.

While waiting for the eye(s) to get better, here are some treatment options you can follow:

  • Try not to rub or touch the eye
  • The use of eye drops. Find out more about how to use eye drops.
  • Do not wear contact lenses

Also, have a look at these 5 free eye exercises to improve your vision.

Eye_drops_Red_eyes_Illustration_SpaMedica

Who should you go and see?

You can go and see your local pharmacist and ask them:

  • If there is anything you can use or apply in order to treat the red eye
  • If you need to see a GP

Related eye conditions you should know about

Eye Conjunctivitis – The conjunctiva is a layer of tissue lining the eye lids and covering the white surface area of the eye. This condition is usually caused due to inflammation or swelling within the conjunctiva. It is usually caused due to dry eyes, infection or allergies.

Your tears are extremely vital to protecting you from this kind of condition, because it washes away the germs and irritations. Tears hold proteins called antibodies that have the ability to kill off germs. If your eyes are dry, there is likely a chance that the germs and irritation can have an effect.

Here are some helpful tips to have the best chance of avoiding Conjunctivitis:

  • Stay away from smoking and second-hand smoke, contact with direct wind and air conditioning.
  • When it comes to the winter, try your best to use a humidifier.
  • Restrict medicine intake that could cause you to dry out and make symptoms worse.
  • Be sure to clean your eye lashes on a regular basis.


Corneal Ulcer – It is an open irritation of the cornea which has an underlying inflammation. The cornea is the transparent front part of the eye which includes the iris, pupil and anterior chamber.

A corneal ulcer can sometimes be very small and difficult to find, in that case a magnifier and illumination is required. It generally looks grey to white on the normally clear cornea.

Here are some helpful tips to have the best chance of avoiding Corneal ulcer:

  • Eye drops
  • People who work around power tools should use eye protection equipment
  • People using contact lenses should be very careful when they clean and wear their lenses
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