We are all familiar with bloodshot eyes. The whites of the eyes are supposed to be clear but sometimes, fine red veins or reddish blotches appear. Naturally, they can be a little worrying. That is why you should learn about the different causes of eye redness so that you know what to do about it.
Causes of red eyes
There are many blood vessels between your conjunctiva and the outer-most white layer of the eyes. Typically, they are not visible to the naked eye. However, sometimes they inflame and become prominent which makes your eyes look red.
Let us first look at the most common causes of reddening of eyes. In most cases, you can blame any of the following:
- Allergens that trigger eye allergy.
- Pollution, dirt and grit that enter the eyes and irritate them.
- Particles in smoke (fire or smoking- both first-hand and second-hand).
- Fumes (exhaust from cars, petrol fumes, solvents etc).
- Exposure to chemicals (at the workplace or chlorine in swimming pools).
- Overexposure to the sun when you are not wearing eye protection like sunglasses.
Usually, a person with red eyes will notice a network of fine but very red vessels along the two corners of their eyes.
But sometimes they may notice a blotch of red. This happens when a blood vessel ruptures, which is called a subconjunctival haemorrhage. It may look serious, but the blotch usually disappears within 7-10 days. Subconjunctival haemorrhage can be caused by:
- Long fits of coughing
- Eyestrain (when you stare at laptop or phone screens for too long or don’t get enough sleep)
Microbial causes of bloodshot eyes
Bacteria or viruses could affect your eyes and cause eye redness.
Some infections that make your eyes go red are:
- Blepharitis- the follicles of your eyelashes get infected and inflamed
- Conjunctivitis- a common eye infection that causes the inflammation of the conjunctiva
- Corneal ulcers
- Uveitis – the uvea becomes inflamed
Infections can make either one or both eyes turn red. Besides, you will also experience:
- Eye discharge
- Changes in eyesight
A few more causes of eye redness
Usually, irritants or infections cause redness of eyes. However, there are a few more reasons your eyes can become bloodshot:
- An eye injury or trauma
- Glaucoma which increases the pressure of your eyes
- Scleritis- swelling of the white region of your eyes
- Irritants or contact lenses may scratch the cornea to cause redness
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Taking drugs
- Excessive alcohol consumption
Can bloodshot eyes be serious?
Usually, if your eyes are merely bloodshot, you have no reason to worry. However, it is a cause of concern if red eyes are accompanied by:
- A dull ache
- Severe irritation
- Sensitivity to light
- Burning sensation
- Severe headache after an eye trauma
- Nausea and throwing up
Be wary if:
- These symptoms do not recede in 10 days
You should consult an ophthalmologist because it could be serious and you may require immediate treatment.
Home remedies for eye redness
Eye redness caused by allergies, irritants and infections like conjunctivitis or blepharitis can be treated by simple home remedies:
- Cold compress with a piece of clean cotton cloth or a ball of cotton wool dipped in cold water.
- Anti-histamine medicines- they suppress the production of histamines that cause eye redness.
- Avoid all irritants.
- Saline drops- they serve the same purpose as your natural teardrops, your eyes eliminate irritants and germs through them. Apply twice a day.
- Cool tea bags on closed eyes can relieve eye inflammation because tea contains powerful anti-oxidants.
- Warm compress with lukewarm water and a clean cotton cloth.
To determine a suitable home remedy for your red-eye problem, talk a doctor on DocsApp.
To prevent bloodshot eyes, you should:
- Wear sunglasses when you go out during the day.
- If your work involves being exposed to chemicals and fumes, wear protective eye gear.
- Wear spectacles to prevent dirt and grit from entering your eyes.
- Anti-blue light lenses can reduce eye strain.
- If you are prone to allergies, wash your pillow covers and bedsheets regularly.
- Use minimal eye make-up and never share eyeliners, kohl sticks, mascara or eye shadow with anyone. Clean your makeup brushes regularly.
- Do not rub your eyes and avoid touching them altogether.
Red eyes are not usually dangerous but do not delay seeing an eye specialist if other symptoms show up. Take good care of your eyes.