Red Eyes

What is Red Eyes?

A Rule to Remember:



Red eyes are caused by enlarged, dilated blood vessels leading to the appearance of redness on the surface of the eye. There are many possible causes of a red eye. Some are quite concerning, even medical emergencies. Others are of no consequence or concern at all.

The degree of redness or appearance of blood usually does not correlate to the seriousness of the red eye. Red eye is, however, generally more serious if you also have eye pain or impaired vision.


Symptoms of Red Eye May Include: Redness, swollen tissue, pain, itching, burning, vision problems, or a yellowish or greenish discharge from the eye.

If the red eye has been red for more than 4 days, is painful, and/or you have a change in vision, you must get to your eye doctor or your local hospital as soon as possible … as in “now.”


Redness of the whites of the eye (sclera) may have several causes. They can become enlarged and irritated. A very small amount of blood can make the eye look bright red. There are many variations in causes for red eye.

Some Causes of Red Eye WITH Pain and Itching:

1. Infection or inflammation (such as keratitis, conjunctivitis, blepharitis, iritis)
2. Burn
3. Allergic reaction to pollen, cosmetics, or preservatives in some eye drops
4. Irritants such as chlorine, smog, and vapors from paint, hair spray, plastics,
hair coloring products, turpentine, household cleaners, etc.
5. Mechanical trauma
6. A foreign body in the eye that cuts or scratches
7. An inflamed iris or uvea, or
8. Acute closed angle glaucoma

Some Causes of Red Eye with No Pain Include:

1. Dry eye
2.Eyelash problems
3. Rubbing the eye
4. A lid that is “turned in”
5. Coughing, sneezing, or vomiting hard
6. Straining
7. Lifting heavy objects
8. Diving under water
9. Bending upside down
10. Substance abuse
11. A bleeding problem (perhaps in conjunction with a blood thinning medicine you are taking)
12. Sjogren’s syndrome
13. Toxic shock syndrome
14. Systemic drug reaction
15. Facial neuralgia
16. Ocular disease
17. Corneal ulcers
18. Contact lens wear

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage:

This hemorrhage shows up as red lines or spots on the part of the eye that is usually white; it is generally harmless. You may not know that your eye is red until someone tells you or until you look in a mirror. Subjunctival hemorrhage may occur for no reason, and it occurs most often in patients who have high blood pressure. The eye may feel slightly scratchy. Usually, no treatment is needed. The blood resorbs into the tissues and the eye becomes clear again. Unless your eye has been seriously damaged, the redness will clear in about a week.
However, If you have eye pain or changes in your vision, the redness may be caused by a more serious problem and you should see your ophthalmologist.

Go to the Hospital or Call 911 if:

There has been any kind of trauma to your eye
You have a headache along with blurred vision or confusion
You are seeing halos around lights
You have nausea and vomiting
Eyelids very swollen with redness of the eyelid.
Constant tearing, blinking or pain in the eye
Possibility of foreign body in the eye


Red Eye with Yellow Eye Discharge: “Pink eye” or bacterial conjunctivitis
Red Eye with No Discharge and with a Cold: Viral conjunctivitis
Red Eyes with Itching, Watery Discharge: Allergic conjunctivitis
Red Eye with History of, or Due to, Trauma or Chemical in the Eye
Red Eye with Pain, Watery Discharge: Possible foreign body in the eye, or corneal


Diagnosis of red eye condition is fairly straight forward; the eye doctor will ask medical history questions, such as:

  • Did the redness come on suddenly?
  • Do you know of something specific that caused the red eye?
  • Have you ever had eye redness before?
  • Do you have eye pain? Does it get worse when moving the eye?
  • What part of the eye is affected – the white part, or elsewhere?
  • Do you have other symptoms like eye discharge, burning or itching?
  • Do you have nausea or vomiting? A headache?

Treatment Options

Treatment for red eye will be specifically dependent upon the cause; the professionals at the Tayani Institute will perform a thorough exam to recommend the appropriate treatment.

Initially, the eyes may be medically irrigated with saline solution. Any foreign bodies, especially if they are embedded in the eye, will be removed. Eye drops and/or ointment may be prescribed. The doctor may apply a temporary patch to help relieve the pain and irritation. If medication is affecting the blood vessels in your eye, your ophthalmologist will consult with your regular doctor to consider a change in medication.