What are the causes and remedies for eye redness?

Symptom Database

Eye redness, also known as red eyes, is a common condition that can be caused by various factors. It is characterized by the blood vessels in the white part of the eye becoming enlarged and irritated, leading to a reddish appearance. While eye redness is often temporary and harmless, it can be a symptom of an underlying issue. In this article, we will explore the causes of eye redness and discuss effective remedies and treatments to alleviate this condition.

Causes of Eye Redness

Eye redness can be caused by several factors, ranging from minor irritations to more serious conditions. Understanding the underlying causes is crucial in determining the appropriate treatment. Here are some common causes of eye redness:


Allergies, such as hay fever or pet allergies, can cause eye redness. When the eyes come into contact with allergens, such as pollen or pet dander, the body releases histamines, leading to inflammation and redness. Avoiding allergens and using over-the-counter antihistamine eye drops can help alleviate symptoms.

Dry Eyes

Dry eyes occur when the eyes do not produce enough tears or the tears evaporate too quickly. This can lead to eye redness, irritation, and a gritty sensation. Using artificial tears or lubricating eye drops can provide relief and reduce redness.


Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is an infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin membrane that covers the white part of the eye. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or allergies. Conjunctivitis often results in red, itchy, and watery eyes. Treatment depends on the cause and may include antibiotic eye drops, antiviral medications, or antihistamines.

Eye Strain

Extended periods of reading, using digital devices, or focusing on a single task can strain the eyes and cause redness. This is known as eye strain or computer vision syndrome. Taking regular breaks, using proper lighting, and practicing the 20-20-20 rule (looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes) can help reduce eye strain and alleviate redness.

Foreign Objects

Foreign objects, such as dust, debris, or contact lenses, can irritate the eyes and lead to redness. It is important to avoid rubbing the eyes when a foreign object is present, as this can cause further irritation. Instead, rinse the eyes with clean water or use saline solution to flush out the object. If the redness persists or the object cannot be removed, seek medical attention.

Remedies for Eye Redness

Fortunately, there are several remedies and treatments available to alleviate eye redness and promote overall eye health. Here are some effective remedies:

Apply Cold Compresses

Placing a cold compress, such as a clean cloth soaked in cold water, over closed eyes can help reduce redness and soothe irritation. The cold temperature constricts blood vessels and reduces inflammation.

Use Over-the-Counter Eye Drops

Over-the-counter eye drops, also known as artificial tears, can provide temporary relief from eye redness and dryness. These drops lubricate the eyes and help reduce irritation. However, it is important to choose preservative-free eye drops to avoid further irritation.

Avoid Irritants

Avoiding irritants, such as smoke, dust, and harsh chemicals, can help prevent eye redness. If exposure to irritants is unavoidable, wearing protective eyewear, such as goggles, can provide a barrier and reduce the risk of redness and irritation.

Practice Good Hygiene

Practicing good hygiene is essential in preventing eye infections and reducing redness. Avoid touching or rubbing the eyes with dirty hands, and regularly clean contact lenses as per the instructions provided by your eye care professional.

Get Adequate Sleep

Adequate sleep is crucial for maintaining overall eye health. Lack of sleep can contribute to eye redness and strain. Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night to allow your eyes to rest and rejuvenate.

When to Seek Medical Attention

In most cases, eye redness can be effectively managed with home remedies and over-the-counter treatments. However, there are instances when medical attention is necessary. Seek immediate medical attention if:

  • The redness is accompanied by severe pain or vision changes
  • The redness is caused by an injury or foreign object
  • The redness persists for more than a few days despite home remedies
  • There is discharge or crusting around the eyes

These symptoms may indicate a more serious underlying condition that requires prompt medical evaluation and treatment.

In conclusion, eye redness can be caused by various factors, including allergies, dry eyes, conjunctivitis, eye strain, and foreign objects. Understanding the underlying cause is essential in determining the appropriate remedies and treatments. By following the mentioned remedies and seeking medical attention when necessary, you can effectively manage and alleviate eye redness, promoting optimal eye health.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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