Bloodshot or red eyes can be visibly ugly. Sometimes the underlying cause is mundane, sometimes it’s a symptom of a more serious problem. Bloodshot eyes tend to occur on the surface of the eye when the tiny blood vessels are enlarged, injured, or congested with blood. It’s usually linked to an insufficient amount of oxygen being delivered to the sensitive outer tissues of the eye.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the common causes of bloodshot eyes, to help you better understand if what’s causing your bloodshot eyes. This is a handy first step in determining if you need professional treatment or if you can manage the problem yourself.
Viral Conjunctivitis Can Cause Bloodshot Eyes
Also known as “Pink Eye” conjunctivitis is most often caused by a virus. It’s usually spread by unwashed hands. Other symptoms of conjunctivitis include:
- Swelling and irritation
- Discharge from the eyes
- Eyes that feel pasty or itchy
- Excessive tear production
- Sensitivity to light
- Impaired vision
- A gritty feeling in the eyelid
Conjunctivitis tends to be more common amongst school-age children and in many instances it is contagious. Some children will also develop a respiratory infection, which can further spread the virus when they cough.
Antibiotics are ineffective for treating viral conjunctivitis. Applying a cool compress to the eyes, and using replenishing eye drops can help manage symptoms as the virus runs its course.
Allergic Conjunctivitis Can Cause Bloodshot Eyes
Allergic conjunctivitis differs from viral conjunctivitis in that the irritation is caused by a common irritant such as dust or the excessive presence of pet dander. It usually happens in both eyes at the same time. The symptoms are similar to viral conjunctivitis. Though the drainage may be discolored white, yellow, or green.
Treatment of allergic conjunctivitis often requires a change in the environment to remove the allergen. This might call for deep cleaning of the home, replacing all furnace filters, or running a high-quality air filter.
A Corneal Ulcer Can Cause Bloodshot Eyes
A corneal ulcer is defined as an open sore on the cornea itself. It is often caused by some type of bacterial infection or some type of eye trauma. It would be that the cornea was damaged by an accidental blow to the eye, and then bacteria infected the wound. that is typically caused by bacterial infections. They often appear following an eye injury, trauma, or some other type of damage.
Symptoms of a corneal ulcer might include:
- Soreness in the affected eye
- Sensitivity to the light.
- Redness in the eyes
- Pain in the eye
- Noticeable eye discharge
- Impaired vision
- A visible white spot on the cornea
It’s also worth noting that cold sores and certain eyelid disorders can also cause a corneal ulcer. Mishandled contact lenses that aren’t cleaned or stored correctly might also cause a corneal ulcer. This is often due to unnatural rubbing on the surface of the eye, which bacteria then exploit.
Without proper treatment, a severe corneal ulcer can lead to vision loss in the affected eye. Treatment might involve the use of prescription eye drops, antibiotics, or special anti-fungal agents. In a severe case, a corneal transplant may need to be performed.
Chronic Dry Eye Can Cause Blood Shot Eyes
Dry eye is not uncommon, especially in older individuals, who often experience reduced tear production. This lack of adequate lubrication fails to nourish the eyes and causes increasing irritation. Acute dry eye and chronic dry eye problems are a common cause of red or bloodshot eyes.
Common symptoms of dry eye include:
- Stinging or burning eyes
- Feeling like something is stuck in the eye
- Redness and discomfort in the eye
- Excessive tears
- Persistent discomfort when wearing contact lenses
- Blurred vision
- Eye fatigue
- Increased problems with eye strain
In the case of acute dry eye, the use of eye drops will often help alleviate symptoms. If over the counter eye drops seem ineffective, you might want to get a prescription for medicated eye drops from your physician.
Chronic dry eye often needs professional intervention. A physician will need to diagnose the underlying cause of the problem to find the most effective solution.
This might include things like:
- Prescription eye drops
- Artificial tears
- A change in another prescription medication
- Surgical intervention in a severe case
- A prescription for cyclosporine
A Subconjunctival Hemorrhage Can Cause Bloodshot Eyes
A subconjunctival hemorrhage is often caused by some sort of eye trauma. When the eye is injured, blood starts to builds-up under the conjunctiva of the eye. As the blood vessels and capillaries swell, they can start to rupture causing blood to leak into the area between the conjunctiva and the white part of the eye. Minor bleeding under the eye’s outer membrane essentially causes a significant red spot to develop on the white on the eye.
Other causes of subconjunctival hemorrhage include things like:
- High blood pressure
- A side effect of certain medications
With most subconjunctival hemorrhages, the eye heals on its own within a day or two. Though in a severe case a physician might recommend artificial tears.
Self-Treatment For Red Or Bloodshot Eyes
Red or bloodshot eyes might develop gradually, or in a short amount of time. Acute causes like an eye injury might be an obvious cause. Whereas irritation from contact lenses or a gradually developing infection, or a side effect of taking a prescription medication might be harder to discern.
If you try using eye drops and the redness or other symptoms don’t improve in a reasonable amount of time, then you should strongly consider seeing a doctor. Some problems like a corneal ulcer can lead to vision loss if left untreated.
At the same time, there are some other serious medical conditions like leukemia, sarcoidosis, and juvenile idiopathic arthritis, that can cause redness in the eye. These conditions can have serious consequences if they are left undiagnosed and untreated.
If you have red or bloodshot eyes and you can’t manage the symptoms or your eyes aren’t improving via self-care, you should strongly consider seeing a physician.