Read below about eye redness, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your eye redness from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having eye redness

Take a quiz

Eye Redness Symptoms

The eyes are among our most sensitive and vulnerable organs, and when anything goes wrong with them it can be very worrying. Yet your eyes have their own protections and are remarkably resilient in many ways. Even an injury that involves redness and bruising in and around your eye usually looks much worse than it is. Eye redness is also called a "bloodshot" eye, or sometimes scleral injection or conjunctival injection.

Eye redness characteristics:

  • The entire sclera, or white of your eye, appears reddened and discolored. A spidery network of red veins may also be visible.
  • One or more bright red spots of blood can be seen within the white of your eye.
  • Eyes feel dry, scratchy, irritated, and burning.
  • Swelling and/or a discharge appears along the inner surfaces of your eyelids.
  • You have the sensation that there is a foreign body in your eye.
  • Sores, or ulcers, appear on your cornea (the transparency that covers the iris, or colored part of your eye, and the pupil.)

Are eye redness symptoms serious?

  • Eye redness is almost never serious on its own.
  • If it is accompanied by symptoms of other illness, such as a cold or other infection, you may need to see a medical provider.
  • If it is accompanied by eye pain and/or visual disturbances, it may indicate a serious condition.

Eye Redness Causes Overview

Many conditions can have eye redness as a symptom. The most common are those involving irritants and infections, as well as injuries.

The most common eye redness cause types are irritants that create swollen, irritated, or dilated blood vessels within the sclera (white) of your eye:

  • Allergies: These can be allergies to external things, like pollen, or to things you have consumed, like peanuts. Both types of allergies cause severe irritation to the eyes.
  • Dust: This may be house dust, dust blowing outdoors, dust from working around hay or grain, or even dust from textiles within a factory.
  • Overexposure to sun: Exposure to the sun or other very bright light, such as the sun's reflection on snow or water, can cause eye redness.
  • Dryness of the eye: Dryness of the eye can be caused by aging or by an autoimmune disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis.

The less common eye redness cause types are infections or other illnesses:

  • Colds.
  • Bacterial infection of the conjunctiva (the clear tissue that lines the eyelids and surface of your eye).
  • Ulceration of the cornea (the transparency over the iris and the pupil). Ulcerations are sores caused by a severe viral or bacterial infection. The bacterial type is sometimes associated with wearing contact lenses, while the viral type is most often seen in those with a past history of cold sores.
  • Autoimmune disorders, some of which cause inflammation of various structures within your eye.
  • Chronic glaucoma, which is a gradual increase in the pressure within your eyeball.
  • A hangover after a session of drinking alcohol can leave your eyes looking bloodshot. This is because alcohol is dehydrating, leaving your eyes dry and subject to irritation, and also because alcohol makes blood vessels dilate. This is visible in the whites of your eyes, making them look red.
  • The eyes of chronic alcoholics often look constantly dry, red, and inflamed.

The rare & unusual eye redness cause types include injury:

  • Subconjunctival hemorrhage, which is a broken blood vessel within your eye. It can happen if you are struck in the eye with an object or if you have a severe fit of coughing. Prolonged emotional upset, such as crying or screaming, can also cause blood vessels in your eye to rupture.
  • Scratches on the cornea, which can be caused by dust, grit, or other foreign body in your eye. Another cause of eye injury is contact lenses left in too long.

10 Potential Eye Redness Causes

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

  1. 1.Inflamed Eyelid (Blepharitis)

    Blepharitis is an eyelid issue where the skin, lashes, or glands become inflamed from an irritant or infection.

    Treatment and preventative measures may successfully control blepharitis.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    eye itch, sensitivity to light, eye redness, feeling of something in the eye, dry eyes
    Symptoms that never occur with inflamed eyelid (blepharitis):
    severe eye pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Bacterial Conjunctivitis

    Bacterial conjunctivitis is one of the most common eye problems. It occurs from an infection of the whites of the eye.

    With treatment, bacterial conjunctivitis resolves in a a few days.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    sore throat, eye redness, eye itch, watery eye discharge, eye redness
    Symptoms that always occur with bacterial conjunctivitis:
    eye redness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Viral Conjunctivitis

    Pink eye conjunctivitis is an infection of the whites of the eyes by a virus. It is extremely infectious and can spread from person-to-person easily.

    Sometimes eye irritation and discharge may get worse for a few days before getting better, but usually symptoms resolve within a week.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    eye redness, eye itch, sensitivity to light, feeling of something in the eye, watery eye discharge
    Symptoms that always occur with viral conjunctivitis:
    eye redness
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  4. 4.Acute Allergic Conjunctivitis

    Itchy, red, swelling of the whites of the eyes can be caused by allergies to any number of things (like pollen, hay, etc).

    This typically occurs every season

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    eye itch, eye redness, watery eye discharge, itch in both eyes, eye redness
    Symptoms that always occur with acute allergic conjunctivitis:
    eye itch, eye redness
    Symptoms that never occur with acute allergic conjunctivitis:
    lump in front of the ear, vision changes
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit
  5. 5.Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

    Shingles (herpes zoster) is a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus - the same virus that causes chickenpox. Early signs of shingles include burning or shooting pain and tingling or itching, usually on one side of the body or face. Rashes or blisters appear anywhere from one to 14 days later. If shingles appears on the face, it may affect vision or hearing.

    An episode usually lasts 2-4 weeks.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    symptoms of infection, dizziness, fatigue, rash, diarrhea
    Symptoms that always occur with shingles (herpes zoster):
    grouped rash, rash
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Eye Redness Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having eye redness.

    Take a quiz
  6. 6.Cluster Headache

    A cluster headache is a type of recurring headache that is moderate to severe in intensity. It is often one-sided head pain that may involve tearing of the eyes and a stuffy nose. Attacks can occur regularly for 1 week and up to 1 year. Each period of attacks (i.e. each cluster) is separated by pain-free periods that last at least 1 month or longer. Other common headaches may also occur during these cluster-free periods.

    Each attack can last from 15 min to 3 hours and occurs from once every other day up to 8 times per day. Cluster periods usually resolve in a few weeks to months but can last up to a year.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    severe headache, nausea, throbbing headache, history of headaches, sensitivity to light
    Symptoms that always occur with cluster headache:
    severe headache
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  7. 7.Uterine Fibroids

    Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors in the uterus. They are common in women of childbearing age.

    Treatment ranges from medication to surgical removal of the fibroid.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    vaginal bleeding, pelvis pain, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), painful periods, irregular period
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Recurrent Cluster Headache

    A cluster headache is a type of recurring headache that is moderate to severe in intensity. It is often one-sided head pain that may involve tearing of the eyes and a stuffy nose. Attacks can occur regularly for 1 week and up to 1 year. Each period of attacks (i.e. each cluster) is separated by pain-free periods that last at least 1 month or longer. Other common headaches may also occur during these cluster-free periods.

    Each attack can last from 15 min to 3 hours and occurs from once every other day up to 8 times per day. Cluster periods usually resolve in a few weeks to months but can last up to a year.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea, severe headache, throbbing headache, congestion, sensitivity to light
    Symptoms that always occur with recurrent cluster headache:
    severe headache
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  9. 9.Burst Blood Vessel in the Eye From Trauma

    A burst blood vessel in the eye can happen after trauma to the eye or the head, which causes a surface vein to pop.

    1-3 weeks

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    eye redness, head or face injury, bright red eyes
    Symptoms that always occur with burst blood vessel in the eye from trauma:
    eye redness, head or face injury
    Urgency:
    Wait and watch
  10. 10.Influenza

    Influenza, or Flu, is an infection of the airway caused by the flu virus, which passes through the air and enters the body through the nose or mouth. The symptoms are similar to those of a cold, but the flu is usually more serious.

    Most recover within 1 week but cough and malaise can persist for 2 weeks.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, cough, muscle aches
    Symptoms that never occur with influenza:
    headache resulting from a head injury
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit

Eye Redness Treatments and Relief

Seek immediate eye redness treatment in the emergency room if:

  • You have sudden severe pain and redness in your eye for no apparent reason, along with trouble seeing. This can be caused by acute glaucoma, which is a medical emergency.
  • You have redness in your eye along with headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and blurred vision, especially if you've had a recent blow to your head.
  • There is an obvious foreign body in your eye.
  • There is blood present that you can wipe away, and it is not just a spot within the white of your eye.

Schedule an appointment for:

Eye Redness remedies that you can try at home:

  • Resting your eyes by sitting with eyes closed in a dimly lit place.
  • Placing cold compresses over your eyes.
  • Using over-the-counter eye drops for temporary relief of redness and irritation.
  • Using an over-the-counter antihistamine for symptoms of allergy.
  • Using over-the-counter cold remedies to ease cold symptoms.

FAQs About Eye Redness

Here are some frequently asked questions about eye redness.

Can eye redness be permanent?

Eye redness can occur due to many causes, and in most cases, these causes are temporary and not permanent. The most common cause of eye redness is engorgement of the blood vessels of the eye. This is called conjunctivitis and can be triggered by bacterial or viral infections as well as dust or other foreign bodies in the eye.

Is my eye redness contagious?

It can be. This depends on the cause of your eye redness. The most common infectious (contagious) form of eye redness is conjunctivitis and is caused by viral illnesses or bacteria entering the eye. Other less common causes of conjunctivitis come from introduction of bacteria from fecal matter to the eye from improper bathroom hygiene. Additionally, herpes can cause severe and contagious eye inflammation called keratitis. Prolonged and painful eye irritation should be evaluated by a medical professional.

Why do I have one bloodshot eye?

One bloodshot eye can be conjunctivitis or inflammation in one eye, trauma to one eye, or a foreign body entering one eye. These common causes can be the product of introduction of bacteria or viral particles to one eye, usually the eye on the side of the dominant hand as the hand most often introduces particles to the eye. If the bloodshot eye becomes painful or does not resolve seek medical attention.

Why are my eyes bloodshot after drinking?

Large amounts of alcohol in the body can cause the blood vessels throughout the body to dilate. This is why individuals who have imbibed alcohol can "flush" or turn red. There are also many small blood vessels in the eye which engorge and dilate causing the appearance of red eyes.

Can stress cause you to pop a blood vessel in your eye?

No, stress does not cause the bursting of a blood vessel in the eye. The bursting of a blood vessel in the eye can be caused by increased blood pressure and fragile blood vessels in the eye causing bursting. A rapid increase in blood pressure can cause the rupture of a blood vessel. Most commonly a valsalva maneuver (similar to bearing down during defecation) can cause a burst blood vessel within the eye.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Eye Redness

  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Does light bother your eyes more than usual?
  • Q.Are you experiencing a headache?
  • Q.Do you feel like there is something in your eye?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our eye redness symptom checker to find out more.

Take a quiz

Eye Redness Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced eye redness have also experienced:

    • 4% Headache
    • 4% Sore Throat
    • 4% Fatigue
  • People who have experienced eye redness had symptoms persist for:

    • 41% Less Than a Week
    • 34% Less Than a Day
    • 10% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced eye redness were most often matched with:

    • 31% Inflamed Eyelid (Blepharitis)
    • 29% Viral Conjunctivitis
    • 25% Bacterial Conjunctivitis
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having eye redness

Take a quiz