What Are Red Eyes?
Red eyes happen when the tiny blood vessels on the surface of the whites of your eyes expand, turning the whites of one or both eyes a pink or reddish tint.
What Causes Red Eyes?
A number of things can make your eyes red. Some of the most common causes are:
Outdoor triggers include pollen from grasses and trees. Indoor ones include pet dander, dust, and mold. In these cases, your eyes may also:
You could also have nasal allergy symptoms, such as sneezing and a stuffy nose.
Sometimes, your tears don’t have the texture they should. They might evaporate too fast. And sometimes, your eye can’t make tears at all. This condition is called dry eye. It can cause pain, ulcers on your cornea, or, in rare cases, some vision loss.
Other symptoms of dry eye include:
A gritty feeling
A burning feeling
Not being able to cry
Excess tears, at times when your eyes aren’t dry
A stringy discharge
Discomfort with contact lenses
Also known as conjunctivitis, pinkeye is when the lining of your eyelid and the white of your eye become inflamed. It might happen because of a virus or bacteria. It’s very common, especially among children, and is usually very contagious. If you think you have pinkeye, see your doctor, wash your hands often, and don’t rub your eyes.
Other symptoms include:
More tears than usual
Eyes that burn, itch, or feel gritty
A white, yellow, or green discharge from your eyes
Sensitivity to light
A crust on your eyelid or eyelashes
Broken blood vessels
This happens when tiny blood vessels break beneath the surface of your eye. The blood is trapped and makes the white of your eye turn bright red. It can be caused by a strong sneeze, heavy lifting, hard vomiting, or rubbing your eye a little too hard. You may be more likely to have broken blood vessels if you take blood-thinning medication, even a baby aspirin. Broken blood vessels can look scary but are generally harmless. There’s usually no pain.
Broken blood vessels cause other symptoms like:
A bright red area on your eye along with the general redness
A scratchy feeling
Fluid can build up in the front part of your eye. This causes pressure and can damage your optic nerve. The condition is called glaucoma. It’s the leading cause of blindness for people 60 and over.
Glaucoma is usually painless. An unusual form of acute glaucoma can cause symptoms such as:
Severe pain in your eye
Decreased or blurred vision
Rainbows or halos in your vision
Nausea and vomiting
Other causes of red eyes include things in the world around you, such as:
Chlorine from swimming pools
Also, eye conditions like:
A scratch, infection, or ulcer on your cornea
Cornea inflammation (keratitis)
Inflammation of the colored part of your eye (iritis), the middle layer of your eye (uveitis), the white part of your eye (scleritis), or the membrane covering the white part of your eye (episcleritis)
Complications from eye surgery or contact lens use
Over-the-counter eyedrops that target redness can actually make the problem worse. Your eyes might come to depend on the drops and be even redder after they wear off. They can also dry out your eyes and hide symptoms of health problems.
How to Treat Red Eyes
Red eyes are usually nothing to worry about, as long as they don’t happen often and don’t last long. You might find brief relief in over-the-counter artificial tears that wash and moisten your eyes.
Decongestants and antihistamines can help with itchiness and redness because of allergies. If you have a bacterial infection, you might need to take antibiotics.
Call your doctor if you have red eyes along with:
A sudden change in vision
Sensitivity to light
Sudden halos around lights
A severe headache, eye pain, or fever
Nausea or vomiting
Something in your eye
Not being able to keep the eye open