Have you ever glanced at yourself in the mirror and been shocked to see bloodshot eyes looking back at you? If so, you’re not alone. Red

eye – the general medical term used to refer to eyes that present with redness – is a very common problem that can affect one or both of our eyes. The majority of people will experience red eye to some degree during their


At Everett & Hurite Eyecare Specialists, we understand how unsettling 'red eye' can be. This common condition, characterized by inflamed or bloodshot eyes, can affect anyone at any time. 

Read on to learn more about the red eye, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment options. 

What is a Red Eye?

A 'red eye' is a term that refers to an eye condition where the white part of the eye appears red or bloodshot. This occurs when the tiny blood vessels on the surface of the eye become inflamed and dilated.

Eye redness can be triggered by several factors, including temporary irritation, lack of sleep, dry eyes, prolonged wear of contact lenses, allergies, or an eye injury. It's important to note that while some causes are minor and easily resolved, others may require medical attention.

Therefore, persistent or severe red eye should not be ignored.

Why Does Red Eye Develop?

The red eye develops when blood vessels on the sclera – the surface of our eyes – begin swelling or dilating. Usually, this sort of expansion and inflammation occurs after our eyes are exposed to an irritant. Any number of things can lead to or contribute to red eye symptoms; just a few examples of red eye-causing culprits include dry air, dust, hay fever or other allergic reactions. In more serious cases, red eye may be caused by viral or bacterial infections, including conjunctivitis (also known as “pink eye”). Injuries and facial trauma can also lead to cases of red eye.

Causes and Symptoms of Red Eyes

The symptoms that people experience when they develop red eyes often vary from case to case, depending on the cause of their red eyes. Several factors can trigger this condition, including:

  • Temporary irritation
  • Lack of sleep
  • Dry eyes
  • Prolonged use of contact lenses
  • Allergies
  • An eye injury

The symptoms accompanying red eyes can vary depending on the underlying cause:

  • Eye pain
  • Itching
  • Eye discharge
  • Swollen eyes
  • Changes in vision, like blurred vision
  • Dry Eye Syndrome: Symptoms include stinging or burning eyes, excessive tearing, eye fatigue, discomfort when reading or watching, blurry vision, a feeling of an object in the eye, difficulty with nighttime driving, and sensitivity to light.
  • Eye Injury: Symptoms include pain and swelling in the eye, bruising and redness, bleeding, changes in vision, and changes in the appearance of the eyes.
  • Eye Allergy: Symptoms involve red and irritated eyes, itchiness, swollen eyelids, soreness or a burning sensation, sensitivity to light, excessive tearing, blurred vision, and swollen eyelids.
  • Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis): Symptoms include itching, a burning feeling, excessive tearing, eye discharge (mucus or pus), and a feeling like there’s something in your eye.
  • Subconjunctival Hemorrhage: This occurs when a blood vessel breaks, causing blood to leak onto the eye’s surface.
  • General eye irritation: This can lead to more serious symptoms like burning, itching, dryness, and pain.

It's important to note that while some causes are minor and easily resolved, others may require medical attention. Therefore, persistent or severe red eye should not be ignored.

What Are The Risks of Untreated Red Eye?

While red eyes are often harmless and might not require treatment, there are conditions that can lead to serious complications if left untreated. If redness persists for more than a couple of days, or if you or a child experiences red eyes, it's essential to contact a healthcare provider.

The same applies if you experience eye pain or discharge. Ignoring a red eye condition that signifies more than mere irritation could potentially result in vision loss.

How Can Red Eye Be Prevented?

Preventing every instance of red eye may not be possible, but certain measures can help reduce the risk:

  • To prevent worsening redness and irritation, it's best to avoid rubbing your eyes as it can introduce dirt and germs.
  • Practice good hygiene with your contact lenses and avoid wearing them past the recommended time.
  • Properly remove eye makeup and keep your eyes clean.
  • Take regular breaks when working on a computer for extended periods.
  • Avoid known irritants such as dust, smoke, or pet dander.
  • Use a dehumidifier at home to prevent the development of dampness and mold.
  • Practice good hand hygiene to avoid various types of infections.
  • Regularly schedule eye exams, especially if you frequently experience eye redness or if the redness doesn't subside.

Taking these precautions can significantly lower the chances of developing red eyes and ensure that any potential issues are detected early.

When Should I Visit a Doctor for a Red Eye?

Because there are so many causes of red eye, it’s important that you be examined by an ophthalmologist to determine if treatment is required to address the cause of your symptoms. The doctor can also tell you the likelihood of the condition being contagious.

You should also call your doctor whenever any redness in your eyes is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

  • Soreness or pain in either of your eyes
  • Discharge developing in one or both of your eyes
  • Sudden changes in your vision, including vision loss or blurriness
  • Headaches or nausea
  • Light sensitivity
  • An inability to keep your eye open or closed

On the other hand, if you experience red eye after experiencing an injury or trauma, it’s best to visit an emergency room rather than wait for a regular doctor’s appointment to make sure the cause of the red eye isn’t serious. Also, make sure that you go to an ER if you experience a headache, nausea, or blurry vision or if you begin seeing white rings or halos around lights.

While the red eye can be a startling condition to see, the good news is that there are a variety of causes for it. That said, it’s exceptionally important that you visit your eye doctor if you do develop red eye, just to make sure that nothing serious is at the root of the condition. 

If you find yourself looking at a case of red eye in your mirror, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our offices. Schedule an appointment with Everett & Hurite Eyecare Specialists. Our team is ready to swiftly address your concerns, ensuring a clear and healthy vision for your future.