Causes of Red Eye – Symptoms, Reasons and Why You Have Red Eyes
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Causes of Red Eye – Symptoms, Reasons and Why You Have Red Eyes

What is the cause of red eye? What are some of the symptoms of red eye? Why do I have red eyes and what are red eyes in the first place? If you have any of the above questions, you will find the most comprehensive answers in this article on causes and symptoms of red eye.

Causes of Red Eye - Symptoms, Reasons and Why You Have Red Eyes Causes of Red Eye – Symptoms, Reasons and Why You Have Red Eyes

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Red eye, also known as blood shot eyes is a general term used to describe any red looking eye, which could be caused, by either an illness or injury.  This condition could affect either a single eye or both the two eyes and it appears because of expansion of the conjunctiva (a membrane that covers the white lining of the eye) blood vessels when they are inflamed, traumatized, irritated or infected. Of course there are many causes of red eye are many. However, before we look at the various causes of red eye, it is worthwhile looking at the symptoms of bloodshot or red eyes.

What Are the Symptoms of Red Eyes

One way of knowing you have bloodshot eyes or red eyes is looking at some of the obvious symptoms of red eye. The extent of the various symptoms of a red eye might not be related to the degree of redness you have but your overall well-being. Some of the common symptoms of red eye that you will not miss include the following:

  • Inflammation and eyelid swelling
  • Pain and general eye fatigue
  • Itchiness, bulging or protrusion (proptosis)
  • Swelling and eye inflammation
  • Headache, neck pain, fever and difficult in concentrating
  • Dryness or having dry eyes while some people have watery eyes
  • Bloating or Stomach ache and pain
  • Sniffing, coughing and sneezing
  • Twitching of the eyes
  • Presence of mucus or pus
  • Swollen hands or legs

If allergy is the cause of red eye, you might have allergy related symptoms of red eye which might include but not limited to the itchy sink, anxiety, rashes, sinus pain or pressure, postnasal drip, hives, and so o. These are not the only symptoms of red eye. There are many other symptoms that you might develop when you have red eye that include Grave’s disease symptoms (heat intolerance, sudden weight loss, irritability, anxiety) and those of sinusitis that will include facial swelling and pain.

When to See a Medical Profession

These above are some of the symptoms of red eye. Most of them are short lived and they will disappear after some time. However, although a red eye might be painless or have mild pain, it is important to seek a doctor’s attention if you notice any of the below symptoms of red eyes:

Causes of Red Eye – Symptoms of Red Eyes

  • Blurry Vision – The first danger symptom of red eye is blurry vision. Any red eye that causes a blurry vision could be from serious ocular disease. See your doctor for a reading t 20/20 line eye chart to be certain your eye is focusing light on your retina. Blurry vision is a sign of danger to anyone who has red eye infection or condition.
  • Severe pain – Going on with dangerous symptoms of red eyes, take action when you have severe pain.  Red eye, especially when caused by conjunctivitis could cause the itchy feeling and a mild irritation. However if you have a severe pain, this could be a symptom of conditions such as keratitis, iridocyclitis, open-angle glaucoma that is acute, corneal ulcer among many other conditions. Ensure you are evaluated as soon as possible to be certain on what is causing the severe pain.
  • Photophobia – this is a condition of high sensitivity to light, a symptom of iritis that inflames the ciliary muscles thus they spasm and become sensitive to light.
  • Colored Halos – The other symptom of red eye that requires urgent attention is colored halos. This is a sign of acute open-angle glaucoma and corneal edema. The halos seen are because of interference of the eye’s optical system.

We have seen some of the common symptoms of red eye. It is time to look at the causes of red eyes. While looking at the causes of red eye, your questions such as why are my eyes red, what made my eyes red? Among many other similar questions on eye redness, will be addressed.

Why Are My Eyes Red – What Causes Eye Redness?

The symptoms of red eye are clear. The moment you notice any of the mentioned symptoms, you should either seek medical attention if they are severe while if they are moderate, you can bear up with them, as they will disappear after sometime. However, depending on the causes of red eye, some causes might require medical attention, even if the symptoms are not severe.  Although we will not follow this criterion, you need to know that the causes of red eye can be divided into three main categories, which are allergic causes of red eye, physical and traumatic causes of red eyes, and finally the infectious causes of red eye. Each of the above causes of red eye should be self-explanatory in terms of how they occur. Now, let us focus on the causes of red eye.

Conjunctivitis – This is the common cause of red eye. It is at times known as pink eye and it is highly contagious and infectious cause of red eye. This red eye infection affects the conjunctiva. When the conjunctiva is infected, the blood vessels in this tissue get irritated; they swell and become red or pink in color. There are different types of conjunctivitis, which cause red eyes.

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Dry Eye or Dry Eye Syndrome – Dry eyes, is the other cause of red eye you need to know. This occurs when your eyes cannot produce enough tears to nourish and lubricate your eyes. When your eyes are too dry, they can eye surface inflammation, irritation and make them turn red. Read more on Dry Eyes – Meaning, Causes, Dry Eye Symptoms and Syndrome.

Causes of Red Eye – Hay Fever


Allergy – Going on with causes of red eye, allergy is also a common cause. Allergies are because of reaction of the immunity system to various substances such as pollen, dust, pet dander or chemicals, often know as allergen. The body will release histamine as an inflammatory response to help fight the various allergens and this will cause red eyes. Histamine will also make the eye blood vessels to dilate and thereby become red.

Blepharitis – Red eyes can be caused by blepharitis, which is the inflammation of eyelashes and eyelids often caused by poor hygiene on your eyelids. This blepharitis inflammation could be from having eyelid glands that are oily, bacterial infection or having lice on your eyelashes.

Red Bloodshot Eyes Causes


Sub-conjunctival Hemorrhage – Whenever blood vessels burst in the eyes, they will tend to bleed and cause red spots beneath the conjunctiva and thus, you will have red eyes. Some of causes of sub-conjunctival hemorrhage include coughing, sneezing, vomiting, straining, diabetes, trauma and some blood disorders.

Red eyes from contact lenses – Although many people do not know about it, you can have red eyes from contact lenses. This cause of red eye is common to people who wear contact lenses excessively as they can lead red eye infection, especially when pathogens accumulate on your eyes. Some of the common red eye infections that might affect you when you overuse contact lenses include fungal eye infection, otherwise known as keratitis. Furthermore, contact lenses are known to worsen the red eye syndrome since they will reduce amount of oxygen that will reach the cornea and affect tear flow, especially when they are not properly fitting.

Computer vision syndrome – Spending much time on your computer is also one of the causes of red eyes, burning eyes and fatigued eyes. When you are on the computer, you will blink less, and your eye surface tends to dry.

Eye Injury and Trauma – Another common cause of red eye is eye injury and trauma. Some of the eye surgeries and cosmetic eyelid surgeries are known to be a cause of bloodshot eyes. When your eye gets injured, it will respond by letting more blood flow to it and this will cause blood vessel dilation and thus one will have red eyes. Similarly, corner abrasion and scratches are known to cause red eyes. See a doctor in case of an eye injury.

Corneal Ulcer – This refers to the infection of cornea and it could be a cause of red eye. Other than causing red eye, corneal ulcer often results to eye pain, eye discharge and reduce eye vision. This threatening condition must be treated immediately.

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Ocular herpes – Going on with causes of red eye, we have the ocular herpes. It is also known as eye herpes caused by a viral infection, the type 1 herpes simplex virus, which is also behind the common cold sores. When you have red eye infection from this virus, other than the normal symptoms of red eye, you will also have watery discharge, sensitive eye, watery eyes and eyes that are very sensitive to light.

Uveitis – Uveitis is another common cause of red eye. It causes inflammation of the uvea (middle eye layer) thus you will have red eyes that are sensitive to light, blurry vision and other disturbances of you vision such as floaters. This condition is caused by a number of eye infections, injuries and trauma as well as systematic autoimmune disorder. If ignored, other than causing red eyes, it can lead to detached retina, high ocular pressure and cataracts.

Glaucoma – glaucoma is a known cause of red eyes that are bright red in color and it will be accompanies with vision loss, nausea and halos vision. If you have Acute angle-closure glaucoma, you need to get treatment since it is eyesight threatening.

Eye Whitening Drops – If you are fond of using the eye drops that help in brightening eyes, they are a cause of red eye since they have vasoconstrictors intended to get rid of red eyes. However, long term of this eye drop has been found to be one of the causes of red eye to people use them quite often, especially after the drop you put in your eye has worn out.

Flu and Cold – When you have these two conditions, you will be accompanied with both puffy eyes and a red eye.  This is due to the blocked sinuses or infection and it is common to people who whose flu and cold is accompanied with coughing and sneezing.

Pregnancy – It might be a little surprising to learn that hormonal changes during pregnancy is one of the causes of red eye commonly seen in pregnant women. These changes will also make eyes itchy, sensitive and dry. Pregnancy at times alters cornea shape and might cause contact lens intolerance. This cause of red eye is although temporary and it will go away after giving birth.

Smoking and Alcohol – cigarettes have many negative impacts to your health including lung disease. Tobacco smoking is also known to cause red eye, dryness, and itchy eyes chances of developing other conditions that cause red eye such as uveitis and cataracts. Marijuana smoking cause blood vessel dilation and you are likely to have red eyes. Finally, excessive alcohol consumption reduced oxygen in blood vessels and they will clump and cause red bloodshot eyes.

Lack of Sleep – Inadequate sleep is another common cause of red eyes that will also be characterized by the presence of under eye bags, eye puffiness and dark circles under eyes.

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Causes of Red Eye – Iritis


Iritis – Inflammations that occur on the colored eye part

Swimming – bacteria present, chlorine and other pool sanitizers often cause red eyes. It is advisable always to have swimming goggles.

Environmental hazards – The list of causes of red eyes is endless. Various environmental hazards such as dusk, smoke, dry air, flying objects, and too much exposure to sun are a known cause of red eyes.

Other Causes of Red Eyes

Other than the above causes of red eyes, you could be suffering from red eyes caused by dehydration, turned-in or out eyelids (ectropion and entropion respectively), keratoconus, scleritis, episcleritis , pinguecula, pterygium inflammation, hyphema, Chalazion, dacryocystitis, among many other conditions.


You know the symptoms of red eyes as well as most of the causes of red eyes. We also have covered other areas on red eyes including red eyes in dogs, removing red eyes on photos, how to get rid of red eyes, which are equally comprehensive and very informative.

Further Suggested Reading on Red Eyes

More on Pink Eye/Conjunctivitis

What is the cause of your red eyes?

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