What causes a white eye

Red eyes: causes and treatment options


Red eyes are a condition in which the dermis of the eye, called the sclera, is reddened or "bloodshot". The sclera is the white skin that almost completely encloses the eyeball and protects the eye.


The appearance of red eyes can vary widely. The sclera may appear to have multiple squiggly red lines, or the entire sclera may appear pink or red. Both eyes do not necessarily have to be affected.

What are the symptoms of red eyes?

The following symptoms are associated with red or bloodshot eyes:


In some cases, bloodshot eyes are not associated with any other symptoms.

What causes red eyes

Red or bloodshot eyes are very common and have many causes. They're usually a symptom of other eye conditions that can range from benign to serious.

The appearance of red eyes is caused by the widening of small blood vessels that are between the sclera and the clear conjunctiva of the eye over it. These tiny blood vessels (many of which are usually invisible) can be swollen for environmental or lifestyle reasons, or due to specific eye conditions.

Red eyes are usually caused by allergy, eye fatigue, excessive contact lens wear, or an eye infection such as conjunctivitis. However, reddening of the eye can sometimes indicate a more serious eye condition such as uveitis or glaucoma.

Environmental causes of red, bloodshot eyes include:

    • Airborne allergens (which cause eye allergies)
    • Air pollution
    • Smoke (fire-related room, cigarette smoke, etc.)
    • Dry air (dry climate, aircraft cabins, office buildings, etc.)
    • dust
    • Airborne vapors (gasoline, solvents, etc.)
    • Chemical exposure (chlorine in swimming pools, etc.)
    • Excessive sun exposure (without UV blocking sunglasses)

Common eye conditions that cause red eyes include:

Some of the serious eye conditions that can cause red eyes include:

        • Eye infections
        • Eye trauma or injury
        • Latest eye surgeries (LASIK, cosmetic eye surgeries, etc.)
        • Uveitis
        • Corneal ulcer


Lifestyle can also be a contributing factor in the occurrence of red eyes. For example, smoking tobacco or marijuana can lead to red eyes, as can significant alcohol consumption. Persistent use of digital devices and insufficient sleep are other lifestyle-related causes of red eyes.

What you can do about red eyes

Because red eyes can have so many causes (including some that are serious and require immediate treatment), see your eye doctor right away - especially if the redness comes on suddenly and is accompanied by eye pain or blurred vision.

Before using eye drops to reduce eye redness, you should consult with your ophthalmologist about using them. These drops may contain drugs called vasoconstrictors, which narrow blood vessels. When the blood vessels on the sclera shrink, the eyes become whiter. However, if you use red-eye remover drops frequently over a long period of time, you may need to use them more often to prevent red-eye recurrence. In addition, after stopping the eye drops, the blood vessels expand even more so that the red eyes can stand out even more.

The best and safest way to remove red eyes is to have an eye doctor determine the cause of your bloodshot eyes for the most effective treatment options.

Until your appointment at the ophthalmologist, you should wear glasses instead of contact lenses so as not to irritate your eyes. It is best to bring your contact lenses with you to the appointment so that your contact lens specialist can assess whether your contact lenses are the cause of your red eyes.