What causes red eyes and how to treat it?

Symptom Database

Red eyes can be a common and bothersome issue that many people experience at some point in their lives. Whether it’s due to allergies, lack of sleep, or other underlying causes, red eyes can be uncomfortable and affect our overall appearance. In this article, we will explore the various causes of red eyes and discuss effective remedies and treatments to alleviate this condition.

Causes of Red Eyes

There are several factors that can contribute to red eyes. Understanding the root cause is crucial in determining the appropriate treatment. Here are some common causes:


Allergies, such as hay fever or pet allergies, can cause redness and itchiness in the eyes. When exposed to allergens, the body releases histamines, which can lead to inflammation and redness.

Eye Strain

Extended periods of focusing on digital screens, reading, or driving can strain the eyes, leading to redness. This is often accompanied by symptoms like dryness, blurred vision, and headaches.


Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, is an infection or inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin membrane covering the white part of the eye. It can cause redness, itching, discharge, and sensitivity to light.

Dry Eyes

Insufficient tear production or poor tear quality can result in dry eyes. This condition can cause redness, stinging, and a gritty sensation in the eyes.

Contact Lens Irritation

Wearing contact lenses for an extended period or not following proper hygiene practices can lead to redness and discomfort. Contact lens-related red eyes may also indicate an underlying infection.

Symptoms of Red Eyes

Recognizing the symptoms associated with red eyes can help determine the appropriate course of action. Here are some common symptoms:


The primary symptom of red eyes is, of course, the noticeable redness in the whites of the eyes. The intensity of redness can vary depending on the underlying cause.

Itching and Irritation

Red eyes are often accompanied by itching and irritation. This can be particularly bothersome and may lead to rubbing of the eyes, exacerbating the redness.

Watery Eyes

Excessive tearing or watery eyes can occur as a response to irritation or inflammation. This can further contribute to the red appearance of the eyes.

Sensitivity to Light

Red eyes may also cause increased sensitivity to light, making it uncomfortable to be in brightly lit environments.

Home Remedies for Red Eyes

While seeking professional medical advice is always recommended, there are several home remedies that can provide relief for red eyes. Here are some effective remedies:

Cold Compress

Applying a cold compress, such as a clean cloth soaked in cold water, can help reduce redness and soothe irritated eyes. The cold temperature constricts blood vessels, reducing inflammation.

Artificial Tears

Over-the-counter artificial tear drops can provide temporary relief for dry eyes, reducing redness and discomfort. These drops help lubricate the eyes and maintain moisture.

Warm Compress

If the redness is caused by dry eyes, a warm compress can help. Placing a warm, damp cloth over closed eyes can help stimulate tear production and relieve dryness.

Avoiding Allergens

If allergies are the cause of red eyes, avoiding triggers such as pollen, pet dander, or dust mites can help prevent or reduce symptoms. Keeping windows closed, using air purifiers, and regularly cleaning bedding can also be beneficial.

Medical Treatments for Red Eyes

If home remedies do not provide sufficient relief or if the redness persists, it may be necessary to seek medical treatment. Here are some common medical treatments for red eyes:

Prescription Eye Drops

In cases of severe allergies or inflammation, a doctor may prescribe medicated eye drops to reduce redness and alleviate symptoms. These drops may contain antihistamines, steroids, or other active ingredients.


If the redness is caused by an infection, such as conjunctivitis, antibiotics may be prescribed to eliminate the underlying bacteria or virus. It is important to follow the prescribed dosage and duration to ensure complete recovery.

Change in Contact Lens Routine

If contact lens irritation is the cause of red eyes, a doctor may recommend changing the type of lenses, adjusting the wearing schedule, or improving hygiene practices. This can help alleviate redness and prevent further complications.

Preventing Red Eyes

While it may not always be possible to prevent red eyes, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk. Here are some preventive measures:

Take Regular Breaks

If your work or hobbies involve prolonged screen time or activities that strain the eyes, take regular breaks to rest your eyes and reduce the risk of redness.

Practice Good Hygiene

When wearing contact lenses, follow proper hygiene practices, such as cleaning and disinfecting them regularly. Avoid wearing lenses for longer than recommended and replace them as instructed.

Protect Your Eyes

Wearing protective eyewear, such as goggles or sunglasses, can shield your eyes from irritants, allergens, and harmful UV rays, reducing the risk of redness and other eye-related issues.

In conclusion, red eyes can be caused by various factors, including allergies, eye strain, conjunctivitis, dry eyes, and contact lens irritation. Recognizing the symptoms and understanding the underlying cause is essential in determining the appropriate treatment. While home remedies like cold compresses and artificial tears can provide relief, medical treatments such as prescription eye drops or antibiotics may be necessary in more severe cases. By taking preventive measures and practicing good eye care habits, you can minimize the risk of red eyes and maintain healthy, clear eyesight.

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