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What Causes a Red, Bloodshot Eye?

April 06, 2016 2 min read

The truth is, we don't know until we look.

Red eyes are often due to inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva (the clear covering over the entire eyeball) or cornea (the transparent surface on the front of the eye). According to the American Optometric Association, the most common causes include bacterial and viral infections or allergic reactions.

Because red eyes can be caused by so many different things, it is important to have all ocular redness examined by an eye doctor.Every red eye is different!


Here are just a few common causes:

Viral Conjunctivitis ("Pink Eye"): This condition is contagious! You may notice redness, watery eyes, and general discomfort. This may spread from one eye to the other over the course of a few days.  There is no treatment for "pink eye" since it is viral.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis: Often accompanied by yellow, goopy discharge. Eyelids are oftenstuck together in the morning.  This can be treated with an antibiotic from your eye doctor.

Allergic Conjunctivitis: This condition will cause intense itching, especially in the corners of the eyes. Eyes will be watery as well.   A great over-the-counter drop for itchy eyes is Alaway.  See your optometrist if you are still having problems after using Alaway.

Contact Lens Complications: There are MANY conditions that fit into this category. Some contact lens complicationscan be sight threatening. Symptoms are often intense redness, pain, sensitivity to light, and blurred vision. See your eye doctor immediately.

As you can tell, an exam by your eye care provider is essential to make sure you get the correct treatment.


Treatment depends on the cause.

But there are a few things you can do to avoid problematic red eyes! The most effective prevention is good hygiene:

  • Wash hands thoroughly.

  • Do not touch your eyes with dirty hands.

  • Change towels and washcloths daily.

  • Do not use another person's eyeshadow, mascara, eyeliner, or other cosmetics.

For those who wear contact lenses, follow your eye care practitioner's instructions:

  • Wash hands before handling contact lenses.

  • Handle contact lenses before putting on or taking off makeup.

  • Only use solution recommended by your eye doctor.

  • Don't forget to replace your contact lens case frequently!

  • Follow the recommended replacement schedule for your contact lenses.


Until Next Time,

Dr. Jenna

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