Bloodshot Eyes

Information to help with the causes of bloodshot eyes and symptoms of red eyes.

Select a Topic

  1. Symptoms of Bloodshot Eyes
  2. What Causes Bloodshot Eyes?
  3. Causes of Waking Up with Bloodshot Eyes
  4. Causes of Bloodshot Eyes at Night
  5. Help for Bloodshot Eyes

What are Bloodshot Eyes?

Bloodshot eyes are a term commonly used to describe red eyes. They are caused when the small blood vessels on the surface of the eye (sclera) become enlarged and congested with blood. This occurs as a result of insufficient oxygen supply to the cornea or the tissues covering the eyes. Usually, bloodshot eyes are not really a cause for major concern but if eye pain or impaired vision occurs, this may be an indication of a serious problem.

A variation of this condition is a bright red, uniformly dense bloody area which forms on the sclera as a result of a small amount of bleeding. This bloody blotch usually occurs upon waking up in the morning. It does not hurt but looks awful, and will clear within a few days. This bloody blotch is called a subconjunctival hemorrhage.

The degree of redness usually does not correlate to how serious the situation is, but rather your overall state of health. As bloodshot eyes are usually not an isolated symptom and rather a result of another condition, taking into account the severity of other symptoms such as eye pain or impaired vision is important. Bloodshot eyes often occurs with other symptoms, including:

  • Pain
  • Itchiness
  • Swelling/Inflammation
  • Headache/neck pain
  • Dryness/ dry eye
  • Stomach ache/bloating/pain
  • Sniffing/sneezing/coughing
  • Twitching
  • Mucus/pus
  • Swollen feet/hands

What Causes Bloodshot Eyes?

Bloodshot eyes are caused by a number of different reasons. While bloodshot eyes can occur at any time of the day, sometimes we are more prone to them after engaging in certain activities or the effects may be seen after a period of time, occasionally thus appearing overnight and visible in the morning, or after a long day of exposure and irritation.

Possible Causes of Bloodshot Eyes in the Morning?

  • Sleep/sleep apnea/sleep deprivation
  • Alcohol (usually as a result of disrupted REM sleep and/or a hangover)
  • Food and diet (from previous day)
  • Cosmetic products used at night
  • Decreased tear secretion at night

Possible Causes of Bloodshot Eyes at Night

  • Environmental toxins
  • Sun exposure
  • Eye strain/overuse
  • Fatigue
  • Eye irritants
  • Chemical fumes
  • Overuse of contact lenses
Other Possible Causes of Bloodshot Eyes
  • Dry Air
  • Infection
  • Deficiencies in Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), B6 (pyridoxine) and the amino acids histidine, lysine or phenylalanine
  • Foreign bodies in the cornea and conjunctiva
  • Pink eye/conjunctivitis
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Cold and flu
  • Allergies and hay fever
  • Improper diet
  • Corneal abrasion
  • Corneal ulcers and infection
  • Intraocular foreign bodies
  • Blood thinning drugs
  • Kidney failure/problems such as kidney stones
  • Diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • High blood pressure/hypertension
  • Glandular fever
  • Mumps
Causes of Bloodshot Eyes in Babies and Children

Often times, babies and children may have bloodshot eyes for the same reasons adults do, either from conjunctivitis to allergies. However, babies and children sometimes do not know not to rub their eyes, which may make the condition worse, nor can they vocalize when they are experiencing itchiness or discomfort. Ear infections, dehydration and even artificial heating or cooling sources may be culprits. Be sure to monitor for additional symptoms, and when in doubt, consult your child’s pediatrician. Infections are especially problematic for children in daycare or school, since they are easily transmitted to others during close physical contact.

Causes of Bloodshot Eyes in the Elderly

As we get older, the normal function of eye tissues decreases and age-related eye problems are common, from visual impairment to eye disorders. Common conditions among the elderly are presbyopia, cataracts, age related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and corneal scratches. Red eyes can be the result of the above conditions or from blepharitis, conjunctivitis, corneal ulcers, allergies, and foreign objects in the eye, corneal scratches or even medications, such as excess use of blood thinning drugs. As many elderly people are high users of prescription medications, this is a very likely side effect from many popular drugs.

Help for Bloodshot Eyes

In cases where fatigue and eyestrain are the causes of bloodshot eyes, treatment is generally not required. More serious cases of bloodshot eyes that do not clear up shortly may require you to consult with an ophthalmologist. If pink eye (conjunctivitis) is diagnosed, avoid touching the infected area and rubbing the other eye as this is a very contagious condition.

Tips for Treating and Preventing Bloodshot Eyes

  • Splash cold water over closed eyes to provide relief for red eyes
  • Apply a cold compress (ice-pack wrapped in a towel) to the eyes
  • Increase your intake of Vitamin A and B supplements
  • Wear preservative-free contact lenses
  • Wear protective goggles if you are doing tasks that may produce airborne particles or dust (e.g. DIY).
  • Products such as Vizu-All Plus™ may also provide temporary relief from symptoms of of eye irritation, such as redness and dryness.