How to Get Rid of Red Eyes

Red eyes usually mean that the white part of the eyes are bloodshot. This occurs when blood vessels supplying the membrane covering the front of the eye change.The membrane covering the front of the eye and lining the eyelids is called conjunctiva. The dilation of blood vessels in this membrane causes the eyes to appear red.

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What causes red eyes?

Red eyes can be caused by a number of conditions, but these are the most common:

Conjunctivitis (pink eye)

Pink eye is characterized by inflammation around the eye. There are three forms of this highly contagious condition: bacterial, viral, and allergic.

Exposure to pollen/eye allergies 

People who are exposed to pollen often experience eye irritation. Keep indoors when pollen counts are highest to reduce irritation. Usually, this is between mid-morning and early evening. 


Redness around the eyes is a common sign of blepharitis, an inflammatory eye condition. Other symptoms include:

  • Itchiness
  • Burning
  • Flaking
  • Crusting

Subconjunctival hemorrhage

There is a less common type of red eye where there is a single, dramatic blood-colored patch on the eye. Usually, this blotch is a bruise, just like you may have on your skin. You might get it after bumping your head or after coughing or sneezing. A hemorrhage is more likely to occur when blood pressure is high and blood thinners are taken.

Overwearing your contact lenses 

When a person wears their contacts for too long or in a closed environment (ie. when sleeping), this can cause Contact Lens Overwear Syndrome (also known as contact lens-induced acute red eye, CLARE, or tight lens syndrome). What this means is that the lenses are worn in a way that deprives the eye oxygen. This results in red eyes, pain, inflammation and can in some cases cause more severe complications. 

Cannabis Use 

When smoking marijuana the cannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors and widen blood cells which leads to an increase of blood flow to the eye. This increase in blood flow causes the red appearance of eyes when someone smokes cannabis. 

Dry Eye Disease

One of the most common causes of red eyes is dry eye disease. Where the tear surface is not healthy, either drying out too fast or not draining tears properly. This then causes inflammation on the ocular surface and leads to red eyes in many cases. 


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How can red eyes be treated?

There are many treatments available for red eyes. The symptoms of red eyes can often be relieved by resting, applying cool compresses to closed eyes, lightly massaging the eyelids and gently rinsing the eyelids, as well as over-the-counter eye drops. If necessary, an eye doctor may prescribe antibiotics, eye drops, or ointments.

The following are treatments for specific conditions:

Red eye due to allergies

Aside from avoiding the allergen, over-the-counter eye drops are usually used for treatment. Artificial tear drops can wash allergens from the eye and add moisture which will ease dry, itchy eyes. Decongestant eye drops reduce redness in the eyes due to allergies.

Blepharitis treatment: In most cases, it involves maintaining clean eyelids. You can relieve symptoms by dampening a washcloth with warm water, wringing out excess water, and holding it to the closed eyelids for a few seconds. You can also lightly wash the eyelid with a cotton swab dipped in a mixture of water and baby shampoo. It is important to clean the eyelids regularly once the condition arises, as it usually does not go away completely. In some cases, the eye doctor can prescribe antibiotics or steroid eye drops. 

Bacterial or viral pink eye: 

Place a warm, damp washcloth over the infected eye for a few minutes. This will also loosen dried mucus if your eyelashes or eyelids are stuck together. To prevent the infection from spreading, use a clean cloth each time. If the pink eye affects both eyes, use a different cloth for each eye. You can also use preservative-free artificial tears.


When that's the case, keep your home's humidity level between 30 and 50 percent. Depending on your climate, you may need a dehumidifier. To prevent mold from growing in high-humidity areas, such as basements or bathrooms, clean them regularly.

Dry Eye:

When someone has dry eyes that are causing redness, the eye doctor will look to reduce inflammation and recreate a healthy tear film. The exact treatment will depend on the doctor's diagnosis but oftentimes involves clearing out the clogged meibomian oil glands and expression of those glands, which then provide a healthy tear film. 

I have red eyes. Can I use as many eye drops as I want?

I have red eyes. Can I use as many eye drops as I want?

Here are a few reasons why too many eye drops can be harmful to your eyes:

  • Medical eye drops will "clamp down" on the eye's blood vessels, preventing them from expanding and slowing blood flow. This will result in less oxygen reaching the sclera (the white layer outside the eye). It is possible to experience redness, irritation, and a slower healing process when you use too many of these drops.
  • You can lose your natural tears by using too many eye drops. You will feel great after using artificial tears as they lubricate your eyes and help with insufficient tear production. The problem with overusing it is that it can actually wash away your natural tears and natural moisturizers that protect your eyes. The tear film is made up of 3 layers of mucin, aquos, and lipid layers, by overusing drops you create an unnatural composition of tears that can lead to discomfort and further damage. 
  • More serious eye conditions can be concealed by these drops. Just like a skin rash could just be an allergy to grass, it could also be flesh-eating bacteria. It's risky to treat the symptoms of itchy, red eyes instead of the cause, which could be more serious.
  • Some drops include preservatives which can cause complications and are not healthy for your eyes for prolonged usage. 

When should you see an eye doctor?

Redness of the eye usually goes away on its own, however it can be a sign of a more serious condition or disorder. 

We recommend you talk to our eye care expert if you are experiencing pain, vision changes, pus or mucus coming out of your eyes, or if you have red eyes accompanied by light sensitivity, swelling, or blurry vision, and if your symptoms persist for a week or more, or if they are getting worse.Additionally if you have ongoing red eyes that is impacting your life, and are constantly using eye drops, we recommend that you visit us to have a comprehensive eye exam with our eye doctors to discuss potential treatments and the risks of overuse of eye drops.

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Common Questions

Sleep deprivation can cause bloodshot eyes. The reason is that your eyes recover while you sleep. Getting too little sleep may result in your eyes producing fewer lubricating tears, causing your eyes to be dry, itchy, and red.
There may or may not be natural treatments to get rid of red eyes, especially if they are caused by infection. Red eyes can be prevented by getting enough sleep and avoiding alcohol, allergens, and smoking. You can relieve tired, red eyes by using cool compresses, like cucumber slices or iced tea bags
Eyelashes can sometimes grow inward instead of outward. When the eyelash rubs against the eyes and eyelid, it can cause irritation and potentially introduce bacteria to the eyes, leading to red eyes.
You should see an eye doctor if your red eyes don't clear up after several days or along with the red eyes you start experiencing other symptoms such as blurry vision, pain around eyes or sensitivity to light. While over the counter eye drops clear up red eyes, their usage should be limited as overuse can lead to other complications. Furthermore, frequent red eye can result from a wide variety of conditions and should be assessed by an optometrist to ensure that the cause of the red eye is being treated. Once the cause has been identified our eye doctor will give you instructions on the best way to relieve the symptoms or treat the underlying condition.
How to Get Rid of Red Eyes
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Our eye doctor may recommend the use of artificial tears. Artificial tears act like a body's own tears. No prescription is necessary to obtain artificial tears, and they can be used as frequently as necessary.

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