Red, bloodshot eyes are never a good look. They can be especially bothersome for people who wear contact lenses. Typically, redness is the result of dilated blood vessels in the eye. Red eyes may manifest as a few red lines dancing around the corner of your eye or entire red splotches. More red usually signals a more severe problem.

Red eyes are unsightly and uncomfortable. Here are some of the most common causes and how you can treat and prevent this issue.

What causes red eyes?

Red eyes are a symptom, not a disease. So there can be many underlying causes behind this ugly issue. Most of the time red eyes are not dangerous, but they can occasionally be a sign of a more serious problem. Here are some of the possible reasons for red eyes:

  • Lack of sleep

Sleep is important to eye health. If you don’t sleep well, it decreases the oxygen that makes it to your eyes, which can cause redness. Similarly, if you stay awake for too long, those extra hours of keeping your eyes open can have a similar effect.

  • Injury

One of the most common reasons for red eyes is an eye injury. Something as simple as a quick poke can leave your eye angry and red. These symptoms will usually subside in a few hours or days.

  • Eye infection

Eye infections like pink eye commonly cause redness. An infection may go away on its own or may require prescription medication from your doctor. Do not wear contact lenses while recovering from an eye infection; opt instead for prescription glasses.

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  • Allergies

Many people have adverse reactions to airborne allergens. Pollen, dust and other small particles can irritate the eyes and cause redness, itching, blurred vision and pain. Over the counter allergy medication can help ease these symptoms. If dust or dirt gets into your eye, you can flush it out with water or eye drops. Avoid rubbing your eyes if something gets into them, as this could potentially lead to a scratched cornea.

  • Chemical exposure

Your eyes may redden if you have recently exposed your eyes to a harsh chemical. Some people may experience red eyes after swimming in a chlorinated pool, for example. If a chemical gets into your eye during a craft or construction project (ie: paint, glue, wood polish, etc.) you should immediately flush your eyes with clean water and then consult a doctor.

  • Glaucoma

Acute glaucoma may cause eye redness.

  • Sunburn

It is possible to sunburn your eyes and the fragile skin around them. Usually only a severe burn will be noticeable, but cumulative sun exposure of any level raises your risk of diseases like cancer.

Treating red eyes

Treatment for red eyes depends on the cause. For allergies and other irritants, antihistamines can help. For red eyes from lack of sleep, you can use a cool compress to ease the discomfort and then administer some artificial tears. Medicated eye drops may also relieve redness.

However, medicated eye drops, even over the counter options, are not meant to be used long term. In fact, using these medications for more than a few days can actually worsen red eyes. If you feel you still need these medicated eye drops after two days, call your eye doctor and set up an appointment.

Preventing red eyes

There are steps you can take to lower your chances of waking up with a bright red eye.

Wear sunglasses

Irritation and sunburn can give you red eyes and hinder your vision. Wearing sunglasses is the easiest way to prevent this. Be sure to choose lenses that are 100 percent UV-resistant or you won’t get adequate protection. Sunglasses from 39DollarGlasses all come with complete sun protection and can be fitted to match your current prescription.

Protect your eyes

Practicing good hygiene will lower your odds of contracting an eye infection. Avoid touching your eyes and always keep your hands and contact lenses clean. Wear protective glasses or goggles while doing potentially hazardous activities like woodworking or painting.

Get an annual eye exam

Some of the more serious causes of red eye, such as glaucoma, need to be addressed by an eye doctor. Maintaining regular eye appointments gives your optometrist the chance to notice these problems before they become serious. An otherwise healthy adult should have an eye exam every one to two years. This will also guarantee you an accurate eyeglass prescription, which you can use to shop for cheap online glasses at sites like

When to see a doctor

In the vast majority of cases, red eyes will go away on their own with some time, or you can use the previously mentioned home remedies to speed up the process. However, in some cases, red eyes can be a marker for a serious problem. Don’t take any risks with your vision or eye health. See an eye doctor in the following circumstances:

  • Symptoms persist for over a week
  • You have a fever or otherwise feel ill
  • Symptoms are getting worse instead of better
  • You experience changes in vision
  • You have any other concerning symptoms