Are your eyes often red and irritated, making you self-conscious or worried about the underlying cause? Bloodshot eyes can result from various factors, ranging from temporary irritations to more serious medical conditions. In this blog post, we’ll explore the causes and solutions for bloodshot eyes, helping you understand the possible reasons behind your red eyes and how to manage them effectively.

Are your eyes often red and irritated, making you self-conscious or worried about the underlying cause? Bloodshot eyes can result from various factors, ranging from temporary irritations to more serious medical conditions. In this blog post, we’ll explore the causes and solutions for bloodshot eyes, helping you understand the possible reasons behind your red eyes and how to manage them effectively.

Red Eye

Key Takeaways

  • Bloodshot eyes can be caused by a variety of factors, including allergies, dry eye syndrome and contact lens wear.
  • Unexpected causes such as environmental irritants, smoking and alcohol consumption may also contribute to redness in the eyes.
  • Home remedies like artificial tears or lifestyle changes such as getting adequate sleep can help reduce bloodshot eyes. If symptoms persist, medical attention should be sought for proper treatment.

Understanding Bloodshot Eyes

Bloodshot eyes, characterized by redness and inflammation, are a common issue that many individuals face. This redness can stem from various causes, such as extended computer use, alcohol consumption, or even neglecting to replace contact lenses. However, there are more serious conditions like eye injuries and infections that can also lead to bloodshot eyes. Determining the cause of your eye redness is key to finding the right treatment and preventing additional complications.

A basic understanding of the eye’s anatomy and tiny blood vessels can help explain why eyes turn red and irritated. Various factors can influence the eye’s blood vessels, such as age, gender, and environmental irritants. Proactively acknowledging these factors aids in maintaining eye health and minimizing the risk of experiencing bloodshot eyes.

Anatomy of Bloodshot Eyes

The eye consists of several layers, including the cornea, sclera, and conjunctiva. The conjunctiva, a transparent, clear tissue that overlays the sclera, contains numerous blood vessels that can become dilated or constricted due to various factors, such as infections or autonomic nervous system regulation. When these blood vessels become dilated or irritated, they can cause the eye to appear red and bloodshot.

Subconjunctival hemorrhage, a condition where a broken blood vessel beneath the conjunctiva ruptures, can also lead to bloodshot eyes. The blood accumulates under the clear tissue, resembling ketchup beneath plastic wrap, causing the eye to seem swollen and red. If the redness is accompanied by more severe symptoms like pain or vision changes, it’s advisable to consult an eye doctor.

Factors Affecting Eye Redness

Eye redness can be influenced by various factors such as age, gender, and environmental elements. For instance, age and gender can impact the quantity of tears secreted, which can result in dry eyes and eye redness. Environmental factors, such as lack of sleep, computer vision syndrome, and photokeratitis, have also been associated with eye redness.

Other conditions, like blepharitis and rebound dilation, can also cause eye redness. Awareness of these factors and precautions can aid in the prevention and management of bloodshot eyes.

Common Causes of Bloodshot Eyes

Among the most common causes of bloodshot eyes are:

  1. Allergies: Allergies can lead to inflammation of the conjunctiva due to exposure to triggers like pollen, dust mites, pet dander, and mold.
  2. Dry eye syndrome: Dry eye syndrome occurs when the eyes do not produce sufficient tears or the tears evaporate too quickly, leading to irritation, redness, and discomfort.
  3. Contact lens wear: Contact lens wear can cause eye redness and irritation, especially if the lenses are not properly cared for or replaced as needed.

Comprehending these prevalent causes and their treatments can empower you to effectively manage bloodshot eyes, enhancing your overall eye health.

Certain medical conditions may lead to bloodshot eyes as a symptom. Once the root cause is addressed, the symptom of bloodshot eyes typically subsides. These conditions include:

Medical Conditions

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage
Orbital Cellulitis, Ulcerative Basal Cell Carcinoma

Allergies and Eye Redness

Allergies can cause eye redness and irritation due to the immune system’s exaggerated response to foreign substances, such as pollen, dust, or pet dander. Histamine release causes inflammation and swelling, leading to red and itchy eyes. Other symptoms of eye allergies include sneezing, itchy nose, and red, swollen eyes.

Treatment for allergies resulting in red eyes may include:

  • Antihistamines
  • Eyedrops designed specifically for allergies
  • Cold compresses
  • Artificial tears
  • Avoiding triggers
  • Taking over-the-counter allergy medications

These remedies can assist in relieving eye redness and discomfort. However, it is important to avoid using systemic allergy medications that can dehydrate the eyes and worsen symptoms.

Dry Eyes and Redness

Dry eye syndrome can cause a range of symptoms, including redness, discomfort, itchiness, and heightened sensitivity to light. Potential causes of dry eye syndrome include environmental irritants, smoking, and alcohol consumption. Women, individuals over the age of 50, and those who wear contact lenses are more likely to experience dry eyes.

Dry eye syndrome can be managed using lubricating drops or by inserting a silicone plug in the tear duct to ease symptoms. You should consult an eye doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment recommendations suited to your particular situation.

Contact Lens-Related Redness

Contact lens wear can result in eye redness and irritation due to various factors, such as improper care, infrequent replacement, or exposure to allergens or irritants. If you experience symptoms of complications related to wearing contact lenses, it is recommended to remove the contacts for a few hours and monitor your symptoms. If the symptoms persist or worsen, contact your eye doctor for advice.

Appropriate contact lens care and hygiene are key to preventing eye redness and irritation. Ensure that your lenses are cleaned and replaced according to the manufacturer’s guidelines, and consult your eye doctor if you experience any discomfort or redness while wearing contact lenses.

Surprising Causes of Bloodshot Eyes

While common causes of bloodshot eyes, such as allergies and contact lens wear, may be more familiar, some surprising factors can also contribute to eye redness. Environmental irritants, smoking, and alcohol consumption are lesser-known causes of bloodshot eyes that can have a significant impact on eye health.

Recognizing the influence of these unexpected factors on eye redness allows you to take action to mitigate their effects and sustain healthy eyes.

Environmental Irritants

Environmental irritants, such as pollutants, toxic gases, bacteria, smoking, and ultraviolet radiation, can cause bloodshot eyes by irritating and damaging the eyes. Allergies to pollen, mold, and pet dander, as well as exposure to smoke, chemical fumes, and air pollution, are common environmental irritants that can lead to eye redness.

To reduce the influence of environmental irritants on your eyes, adopt precautions like wearing protective eyewear, avoiding exposure to irritants, and maintaining good eye hygiene. If you experience persistent eye redness due to environmental irritants, consult your eye doctor for appropriate treatment options.

Smoking and Eye Redness

Smoking has a significant impact on eye health, including an increased risk of bloodshot eyes. Cigarette smoke contains chemicals that can irritate the eyes, leading to inflammation and redness. Additionally, smoking can damage the uvea, the middle layer of the eye wall, resulting in red eyes.

Giving up smoking can significantly enhance your overall eye health and lower the risk of eye redness. If you are a smoker, consider seeking help to quit smoking for the sake of your eyes and overall health.

Alcohol and Eye Redness

Alcohol consumption can lead to bloodshot eyes due to its vasodilating effects and dehydration. Alcohol stimulates the relaxation and dilation of blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the eyes and causing them to appear red and bloodshot. Dehydration resulting from alcohol consumption can also cause dryness, irritation, and blurry vision.

To reduce the risk of bloodshot eyes associated with alcohol consumption, consider moderating your alcohol intake and ensuring hydration by drinking water along with alcoholic beverages.

Serious Conditions Linked to Bloodshot Eyes

Bloodshot eyes can sometimes be a sign of more serious medical conditions, such as:

  • Angle-closure glaucoma
  • Uveitis
  • Scleritis
  • Corneal ulcers

These conditions, including eye infection, pink eye, and red eye, can cause significant eye redness, pain, and vision changes, potentially affecting the optic nerve and require immediate medical attention to prevent permanent vision loss or damage.

Identifying the symptoms of these severe conditions and seeking immediate medical care can safeguard your eyes and uphold your overall eye health.

Angle-Closure Glaucoma

Angle-closure glaucoma is a serious medical emergency. If it isn’t addressed promptly, it can result in permanent vision loss. Symptoms of angle-closure glaucoma include:

  • Sudden onset of intense eye pain
  • Periodic headaches
  • Halos around lights
  • Redness of the eye
  • Diminished or foggy vision
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

If you experience these more serious symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

Treatment for acute angle-closure glaucoma typically involves a laser procedure to create a small opening in the iris, allowing fluid to drain and restoring normal intraocular pressure. Risk factors for angle-closure glaucoma include female gender, increasing age, Inuit or East Asian ethnicity, shallow anterior chamber, shorter axial length, and genetic factors.

Uveitis, Scleritis, and Episcleritis

Uveitis, scleritis, and episcleritis are three inflammatory eye conditions that can cause redness and require medical attention. Uveitis is an inflammation of the uvea, the middle part of the eye, causing redness, pain, and blurred vision. Scleritis, on the other hand, is an inflammation of the sclera, the white part of the eye, causing deep redness and tenderness. Episcleritis is inflammation of the episclera, a thin layer covering the white part of the eye, resulting in redness and mild discomfort.

Prompt treatment is crucial for all three conditions. Uveitis requires prescription steroids to reduce inflammation and address any underlying cause. Scleritis necessitates immediate medical care with oral anti-inflammatories and steroid drops. Episcleritis can often be managed with over-the-counter anti-inflammatories but should be monitored by a doctor.

Treating these conditions promptly is important, as uveitis can lead to vision loss if unmanaged. Scleritis frequently indicates an underlying medical issue. Even episcleritis, though typically less severe, can cause persistent discomfort and complications if left untreated. Proper management of inflammatory eye diseases like uveitis, scleritis, and episcleritis is key to preserving vision and eye health.

Corneal Ulcers

Corneal ulcers are lesions on the cornea, the transparent outer layer of the eye, which can result in the following symptoms:

  • Redness
  • Discomfort
  • Decreased visual acuity
  • Pain
  • Tearing
  • Light sensitivity
  • Feeling of grittiness in the eye

If left untreated, corneal ulcers can cause permanent vision loss or damage.

Treatment for corneal ulcers typically involves the use of medication in the form of drops to address the source of the infection, which may be antibacterial, antiviral, or antifungal. In some cases, steroids may be prescribed after the infection is managed to reduce scarring and inflammation. If you suspect you have a corneal ulcer, seek medical attention immediately.

Effective Solutions for Bloodshot Eyes

Bloodshot eyes can be managed and prevented through a mix of home remedies, lifestyle modifications, and seeking an eye doctor’s advice when needed. By implementing these solutions, you can maintain healthy eyes and avoid the discomfort and potential complications associated with bloodshot eyes.

It’s important to identify warning signs and symptoms that could suggest a more severe condition needing medical attention. Seeking prompt medical care in these situations can help protect your eyes and preserve your vision.

Home Remedies

Several home remedies can help alleviate bloodshot eyes and soothe irritation. Over-the-counter artificial tears, antihistamine eye drops for seasonal allergies, and cool compresses can provide relief for red and irritated eyes. Applying a cold compress over closed eyes can help constrict blood vessels and reduce inflammation, pain, and redness.

In addition to these remedies, it’s important to practice good eye hygiene by gently washing your hands and face, lightly massaging the eyelids, and keeping your linens clean. These simple steps can help prevent eye redness and irritation caused by allergens and irritants.

Lifestyle Changes

Making lifestyle changes can play a significant role in preventing bloodshot eyes. Ensuring that you get adequate sleep, stay hydrated, and avoid exposure to irritants like smoke, fumes, pollen, dust, chlorine, and pet dander can all help maintain healthy eyes and minimize redness.

By adopting these lifestyle changes and taking steps to protect your eyes from environmental irritants, you can effectively reduce the risk of bloodshot eyes and maintain overall eye health.

When to See an Eye Doctor

Seeking medical attention for bloodshot eyes is essential when symptoms persist or worsen, or when redness is accompanied by other concerning symptoms. Warning signs that may indicate a more serious condition requiring medical attention include:

  • Thick pus in the eye
  • Fever
  • Swelling and redness around the eye
  • Eye discharge
  • Pain
  • Red eyelids
  • Sudden changes in vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Nausea

By staying attentive to eye pressure and seeking immediate medical care when necessary, you can safeguard your eyes and uphold healthy vision for the future.


Bloodshot eyes can be caused by numerous factors, ranging from temporary irritations to serious medical conditions. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and appropriate treatments for bloodshot eyes is crucial in maintaining optimal eye health. By implementing home remedies, lifestyle changes, and seeking medical attention when necessary, you can effectively manage and prevent bloodshot eyes, ensuring that your vision remains clear and comfortable.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a bloodshot eye indicate?

A bloodshot eye is usually a sign of inflammation, which can be caused by mechanical irritation, allergens, infection or other medical conditions.

How do you get rid of red bloodshot eyes?

To get rid of red, bloodshot eyes, try using cool compresses, antihistamine medications, or over-the-counter eyedrops designed for allergies. If symptoms persist, rest and lightly massage your eyelids before gently washing them with OTC eye drops.

What virus causes red bloodshot eyes?

Adenovirus is the virus that is most commonly responsible for causing red, bloodshot eyes. It is highly contagious and often causes cold-like symptoms such as a fever, sore throat, runny nose and cough, as well as eye redness and pain. Careful history-taking can help in identifying the viral cause of acute red eye.

What lifestyle changes can help prevent bloodshot eyes?

To prevent bloodshot eyes, get adequate sleep, stay hydrated, and avoid irritants.

When should I see an eye doctor for bloodshot eyes?

If your bloodshot eyes do not improve or if they are accompanied by other symptoms, it is time to visit an eye doctor.


  1. Eye Redness – Mayo Clinic
  2. Red Eyes: Causes, Symptoms, Complications, and More – Healthline
  3. Bloodshot eyes: 10 causes and treatments – Medical News Today
  4. Why Are My Eyes Red? – WebMD
  5. 7 Things You Can Do to Prevent a Stroke – Harvard Health Publishing
  6. How to Get Rid of Red Eyes – American Academy of Ophthalmology
  7. Causes and Cures of Red, Bloodshot Eyes – All About Vision
  8. Eye Redness Treatment – Verywell Health


Photo graph of Dr. Conlon operating with loops on.

Dr. M. Ronan Conlon started his career in the field of ophthalmology at the same time as the development of refractive eye surgery in Canada. In 1996, he brought laser technology to Canada from Germany, which allowed him to perform laser eye surgery before it was available in the United States. With the establishment of the Conlon Eye Institute, Dr. Conlon has performed more than 40,000 refractive procedures and has advanced his expertise in LASIK and refractive cataract surgery.

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