Red or bloodshot eyes can be alarming, but are usually not cause for concern. Discover what causes red eyes, the typical symptoms, how you can treat them and when you’ll need to seek medical attention.
Symptoms of red or bloodshot eyes
Red or bloodshot eyes can be the result of another eye condition. Therefore, they may be accompanied by symptoms such as:
- sticky white discharge
- watery eyes
- gritty eyes
If you experience eye pain, if you’ve had a recent injury or your vision becomes affected, you should seek the advice of a healthcare professional.
Causes of bloodshot eyes
Red or bloodshot eyes can be caused by many different things, from eye infections, allergies and eye fatigue, to swimming, dust, lack of sleep, polluted air or the inflammation of the blood vessels in the eye. Red eyes do not usually affect vision – but if they remain for more than few days, please contact your doctor.
Other common conditions associated with red eyes include:
- conjunctivitis (eye infections)
- contact lens usage
- burst blood vessel
- subconjunctival haemorrhage
- corneal abrasion
- dry eye
- corneal ulcer (ulcer on the cornea)
- uvetis (the coloured part of the eye, the iris, is inflamed)
- glaucoma (the optic nerve of the eye is damaged by pressure)
It’s also worth being aware that red eyes can be either painful or painless. Painful red eyes should always be looked at by a healthcare professional, while painless red eyes can be treated using over-the-counter medicinal products as directed by your pharmacist.
Painless red eye
Conjunctivitis or a blood burst vessel normally does not affect vision. These conditions should clear up on their own within a few weeks – seek advice from a pharmacist to confirm what treatment is needed.
Conjunctivitis is a term used to refer to a diverse group of diseases/disorders that affect the conjunctiva. Blood vessels in the eyes become inflamed, making the eye(s) look bloodshot or gritty. Irritants, such as pollen, dust or chlorine, can also cause conjunctivitis. For more information on conjunctivitis, take a look at our eye infections advice.
Blood burst vessel
Certain types of medications, such as aspirin, can cause a blood burst vessel. They can also be caused by straining the eyes, coughing, too much time in front of a computer (or other screens), or injury.
Painful red eye
The following conditions are more serious and can affect vision. If your eyes are red and painful, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
The corneal ulcer is an open sore on the cornea, which can be cause by an infection or dry eyes. Bacterial ulcers are most frequently caused by contact lens wearers, while viral ulcers are common amongst people who have a cold sore.
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that result in optic nerve loss and vision loss. Glaucoma causes the pressure inside the eye to increase, which can lead to pain, headache and redness in the eyes. It can also cause the vision to become blurry.
Iritis is inflammation of the iris – the coloured part of the eye. Iritis can cause a sensitivity to light and can lead to decreased vision.
Treating bloodshot eyes
Most instances of red eyes can be easily resolved with the appropriate treatment at home. If, however, you’re experiencing pain, consult a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
For painless red eyes, eye drops can reduce the redness. If the redness is caused by dry eyes, specific treatments are available. If your red eyes are being caused by an allergy, it’s worthwhile talking to your pharmacist or optometrist, who can provide advice on suitable treatments. For more advice, take a look at our eye allergies advice.
Treating different types of red eyes:
A normal eye should look bright, white and healthy.
Mild eye redness
Usually caused by a lack of sufficient sleep, or intense periods of driving and working, mild red eyes are usually easily treated. Vizulize Cooling and Soothing Eye Drops can help relieve any mild discomfort and reduce redness.
Irritated eye redness
Bloodshot eyes that are feeling irritated can be treated with Vizulize Irritated Eye Drops. For those who find drops difficult or inconvenient to use, Vizulize Irritated Eye Spray can be used on closed eyes and while wearing waterproof makeup.
If you suspect there might be something in your eye, Vizulize Eye Wash is an effective, gentle way to wash out pollutants or irritants. All Vizulize products are safe for use with contact lenses, without the need to remove them. They’re also pH balanced to match the eye’s natural tear fluid, so as not to sting on application.
Very sore red eyes/Conjunctivitis
Occasionally painful and inflamed, conjunctivitis or very sore eyes should be attended to quickly. If you begin to experience pain more frequently, please seek the advice of a healthcare professional who will advise you on the most appropriate treatment.
Preventing bloodshot eyes
Practising good hygiene and taking preventative measures can help you avoid having to deal with red eyes. These tips provide a good starting point:
- Wash hands regularly and avoid touching your eyes
- Take breaks when looking at a screen, TV or phone to avoid eye strain
- Get plenty of sleep to rest your eyes
- Avoid allergens, such as pollen, which can cause eye irritation
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful particles
- If something enters your eye, wash it immediately
If you wear contact lenses, make sure you do not wear them for longer than the recommended time. Be sure to take care of contact lenses by sterilising and replacing them on a regular basis – follow the advice of the manufacturer and your optician.
These products are not appropriate for very sore, bloodshot or infected eyes. If you are experiencing these symptoms please seek advice from a healthcare professional.
A specialist formulation providing immediate cooling and soothing relief for dry, tired and irritated eyes.
A simple alternative to eye drops that soothes and relieves irritated, itchy eyes.