Bloodshot eyes – causes, symptoms & treatments

Medically reviewed by Tina Patel, Contact Lens Optician at Feel Good Contacts.

What are bloodshot eyes?

Bloodshot eyes or red eye happens when tiny blood vessels on the white part of your eye(s) expand, turning your eye(s) red/pink. This can indicate different health issues. While some of the symptoms can be mild, others can be serious and might require further medical attention.

What causes bloodshot eyes?

Bloodshot eyes can be caused by various factors, including eye irritation which can be caused by airborne irritants, pollution, allergies, or even everyday products such as makeup or shampoo getting into the eye. Bloodshot eyes can also be a sign of an eye condition. Usually, mild red eyes are not an issue of concern, however, it is essential to be vigilant as it could be a sign of an alarming health issue. The most common causes of bloodshot eyes are:

  • Allergies
  • Wearing your contact lenses for too long
  • Eye infection or disease
  • Ingrown eyelashes
  • Burst blood vessel
  • Smoking
  • Consuming alcohol
  • Cannabis-use
  • Dry eyes
  • Scratch to the cornea/grit in the eyes

Some, contact lens wearers are more prone to having red eyes temporarily. This is because they need to touch their eyes and the surrounding areas to apply their lenses, increasing the risk of eye infection. You can have a look at our handy step-by-step guide to wearing contact lenses.

How to get rid of bloodshot eyes?

You can get relief from bloodshot eyes in a variety of ways. You could try a soothing cool compress held on closed eyes. If your eyes feel tired, some lubricating eye drops (or artificial tears) could help alleviate your symptoms. However, if the discomfort/ pain continues, you must immediately seek advice from an eye care professional.

How should I treat a bloodshot eye?

Treatment for bloodshot eyes will vary based on the cause. If you’re experiencing milder symptoms of bloodshot/red eyes, you’ll most likely be able to treat your symptoms at home or via over-the-counter medications. Below are some ideas for you to apply:

1. Apply a cool compress

A cool compress such as Thera-Pearl Eye Mask can be applied to soothe your eyes and help with relief.

Thera-Pearl Eye Mask

Thera-Pearl Eye Mask

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2. Avoid makeup

If you’re experiencing red eyes, you should avoid using makeup, especially around your eyes as it can cause further irritation.

3. Avoid wearing contacts

Wearing contacts means unavoidable touching of the eyes to apply or remove your lenses. Why not keep a spare pair of glasses and avoid any risk of further infection?

4. Over the counter (OTC) medication

You can get OTC medications, including antihistamines or decongestants that can help reduce the redness in your eyes.

5. Artificial tears or soothing drops

Artificial tears are also a good option and are available over the counter. It can help alleviate red eye and wash away irritants. Try comfi soothe drops, which can help you get relief from the redness and irritation in the eyes. These drops mimic your natural tears to help reintroduce moisture to the eyes.

Top tip: Store them in the refrigerator for extra relief.

comfi Soothe Drops

comfi Soothe Drops

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6. Limit screen time

Too much screen time can worsen your eye condition. Its best to take a break or at least limit your screen time.

When should you see a doctor for red eye?

If you’re experiencing pain alongside red eyes, you must consult your eye doctor as it could be a sign of something serious, including:

If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention immediately:

  • Discomfort/pain while opening your eyes
  • Photophobia (light sensitivity)
  • Severe headache
  • Swollen eyes/area around the eyes
  • Nausea, fever or vomiting
  • Blurry vision

Even if your irritated eyes don't feel like enough of an emergency, you should still visit your optician if your symptoms persist for more than a few days.

How to prevent bloodshot eyes?

Bloodshot/red eye can be prevented in most cases if proper hygiene is followed.

Here are some ways to prevent bloodshot eyes:

  • Wash and dry your hands thoroughly, before applying and removing your lenses
  • Don't wear your contact lenses for more than the recommended wearing time
  • Don't touch your eyes but if you must, wash and dry your hands first
  • Avoid smoky and dusty environments
  • Clean your contacts regularly
  • Visit an eye care professional at least every two years

General eye care will help you to avoid red eyes. This is especially important if you wear contact lenses. Improper lens care can lead to corneal ulcers, blurred vision and dry eye among other things. Check our Eye Care Hub for more information about eye health, eye problems and how to look after your lenses.

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