Got Red Eyes? A List of Causes and Treatments

It’s probably already happened to you at least once, before now – you looked in the mirror, and the whites of your eyes were red. It could have been that you just didn’t get enough sleep, or it could be something else.

Red eyes are nothing unusual, and most of the time they’re really nothing to worry about. However, there are times when your red eyes could be a sign of something more serious going on with your eyes or with your vision.

What Are Red Eyes?

Red eyes are caused by blood vessels in your eyes expanding – which can happen for numerous reasons (even itching your eyes, or rubbing them when you’re tired, can cause redness). These inflamed surface blood vessels of the eyes can make your eyes look red or even pink (hence the name “pink eye,” which is one of the things that can give you red eyes).

What Causes Red Eyes

Red Eyes

Red eyes most often happen for a reason – you don’t wake up with them without some underlying cause. These causes can be as simple as having one too many drinks the night before to having an allergy attack.

Here are the likely culprits for your red eyes, and what you can do about it.

1. Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol is one of those silent killers – you may think that it’s OK to drink as much alcohol as you want as long as you don’t blackout. You might think that the only part of your body that might be harmed by your alcohol consumption is your liver. These thoughts are absolutely wrong – and just one drink of alcohol begins its negative effects on your body (throughout – from head to bladder).

Your eyes are one of the things affected by alcohol consumption. It causes your blood vessels to expand, which is why you wake up with bloodshot eyes. Alcohol can also cause rapid eye movement and is super dehydrating.

2. Allergies

Allergies can cause eye redness, which can be exacerbated by the itching they cause as well. Burning and watering eyes are other symptoms that accompany the red eyes of allergy sufferers.

If you want to stop eye redness caused by allergies, you need to figure out what’s causing your allergies. Some culprits to consider are pollen (from flowers, grasses, and trees), dust, mold, pet dander, cigarette smoke, and even perfume.

Antihistamines can help fight allergy symptoms, and you can find allergy eye drops to help remove the red and stop the itching in your eyes.

3. Broken Blood Vessel

If your red eyes don’t come with sneezing or a post-nasal drip, and you don’t feel like anything else is wrong with you, it could be the cause of a broken blood vessel. This redness is usually intense and often only in one eye.

Blood vessels in your eyes can break when you’re straining. That means it can happen from lifting heavy objects, sneezing intensely, or even from vomiting. You can also break the blood vessels in your eyes by rubbing them too hard.

4. Laceration, Stye, or Something Else in Your Eye

Rubbing your eyes, broken blood vessels aside, can give you bloodshot eyes, especially if there is something else going on within your eye – like you have a cut or something on your eye. If your red eyes are being caused by something in your eyes, no matter what it is, you need to flush your eyes and possibly go to your eye doctor – glass, metal, and other objects that can get in your eyes at work can scratch your cornea and not only damage your eyesight but also cause an infection.

5. Dry Eye

If the tear glands of your eyes are not producing enough tears, or they are producing ones of the wrong consistency to lubricate your eyes properly, you could get red eyes from having dry eyes. This condition is more common than most people think it is.

Dry eye isn’t something to ignore – not only can it be painful, but it can also cause corneal ulcers and possibly lead to vision loss. If you experience dry eye, and have any of the following signs or symptoms, talk to your eye doctor –

    • Burning feeling in your eye
    • Feeling of grittiness
    • Blurred vision, even occasional
    • Eye fatigue
    • Lack of tears (unable to cry)
    • Lots of tearing when there isn’t any eye dryness
    • Discomfort when wearing contact lenses
    • Heavy eyelids

6. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is an eye issue that happens to many people as they age. It is represented by a fluid build-up in the eye, and it causes the eye pressure to increase. This damages the optic nerve over time.

Glaucoma causes blindness when left untreated, and is most common in those 60 years of age and older. There is generally no pain with glaucoma, but there can be acute symptoms that cause severe pain. Other symptoms of acute glaucoma include –

    • Vision issues – like decreased vision and blurred vision
    • Headaches
    • Vomiting or feelings of nauseousness
    • Visual halos or rainbows

7. Pink Eye or Other Conjunctivitis

Another more dangerous culprit of red eyes is Pink eye, which is caused by numerous things. Conjunctivitis can be caused by bacteria, viruses, irritants, or allergies. It’s a common eye illness and the viral form (Pink eye) happens most often in children.

Pink eye is extremely contagious and should be dealt with swiftly. Knowing the signs of pink eye are important, and any cause of red eyes that doesn’t seem to go away with a few allergy eye drops should be looked into by a doctor in order to rule out other causes.

Symptoms of Conjunctivitis include –

    • Itchy eyes
    • Burning sensation in eyes
    • Gritty feeling in eyes/eyelids
    • Excessive tears
    • Discharge from eyes – could be yellow, white, or even green
    • Crust forming on eyelashes and/or eyelids

Red Eyes

What to Do About Red Eyes

Knowing the cause of your red eyes is the first step in doing something to get them white again. What you do about it will depend on the cause of your dry eyes.

1. Allergy Redness

If you suffer from allergies, seasonal or year-long, you should get on an antihistamine pill (but keep in mind that these can dry your eyes out). Talk to your doctor about your allergy and maybe find out what you’re allergic to. Use allergy eye drops as a backup to help deal with the itchiness and the redness as well.

Itching your eyes will only make allergies worse by releasing more histamine, so avoid doing this.

2. Dry Eyes

If it’s a lack of tears that’s making your eyes red and inflamed; you can find eye drops that work like “fake” tears, which will help soothe your eyes. This should only be a temporary answer though, as you should visit your doctor to figure out what is actually causing your dry eyes, and maybe get a more permanent solution to the problem, such as using a hypochlorous acid eyelid cleanser twice daily.

3. Serious Eye Issues

If there is any chance that your red eyes are caused by acute Glaucoma or something stuck in your eye, make an appointment with your eye doctor to get it checked out. Ignoring a serious eye issue can lead to blindness – which is almost always irreversible.

When to Go to the Doctor About Your Red Eyes

You don’t want to call the doctor every single time your eyes are red, but there are times when it’s better to get a hold of them and get your eyes checked out (you want to know if it is something serious). If eye redness is common, and you suffer from allergies or did a lot of drinking (or vomiting) the night before, you don’t need to rush to the doctor.

If you have red eyes, and you’re experiencing any of the following eye symptoms, a visit to the doctor should be a high priority on your list of things to do to deal with it.

    • Changes in vision that seem to come on suddenly
    • Halos around lights, or rainbows in your vision
    • An increased sensitivity to light (some people have a mild sensitivity that is normal to them)
    • Severe headaches
    • Eye pain
    • Fever or vomiting
    • Any foreign object in your eye (this can be anything from liquid and powder substances, to an actual chip of metal or wood)
    • Swelling of the eyes
    • Problems keeping one or both eyes open

Final Thoughts on Redness of the Eye

If you have any worries that something is wrong with your eyes, and they are accompanied by redness, don’t hesitate to call your doctor. Red eyes may commonly be “nothing,” but it’s also better to be safe than lose your eyesight.

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