When looking in the mirror, you can quickly tell when you have red eyes. A red eye is a sign of irritation or injury. Sometimes other symptoms are a wake-up call, such as watery eyes, itching, and stinging. In all cases, it’s important to get the appropriate care. Why does the white of the eye turn red? What are the causes, symptoms and treatments of red eye? What are the risks associated with red eye? This guide contains all the answers to these questions.

What are the symptoms of red eyes?

When we experience red eyes, it’s usually because of an irritation of the white of the eye. Most often, it’s the small blood vessels that dilate the white of the eye red. Symptoms of red eyes may affect only one eye, or both at the same time. It is sometimes accompanied by tearing or itching.
It can also happen that one of these small blood vessels ruptures. This is mostly harmless and the redness will wear off in a day or two. However, if in doubt or if you’re experiencing pain with the redness, it’s better to make an appointment as a precaution. This will answer any questions about the origin of your red eye so that you can get the most appropriate treatment.

What causes red eyes?

There are many factors that can cause red eyes. Having the whites of your eyes turn red is a phenomenon that affects many people during their lifetime. Here’s an overview of the most common causes:

  • Irritating products or foreign bodies in the eye can be the cause of red eyes, including soap, an eyelash, sand, dust, etc.
  • Mechanical stimuli, such as those caused by certain contact lenses, are sometimes responsible for eye irritation.
  • Dry eyes are also often red, and this can be caused by fatigue, spending too much time in front of a screen, or other factors, including dry air.
  • Sunlight can cause red eyes as a reaction to prolonged exposure to strong UV (ultraviolet) radiation.
  • Allergic reactions to pollen and animal hair, for example, are also among the common causes identified by optometrists.
  • Red eyes can be a sign of keratitis, which is an inflammation of the cornea. It’s caused by external factors, or it is caused by a viral or bacterial infection.

Along with these factors, red eyes are sometimes the first sign of potentially serious eye disease or damage.

What are the diseases or lesions that cause redness in the eye?

Eye redness is sometimes a sign of eye diseases or lesions that must be treated.

  • Conjunctivitis is one of the most common causes of red eye. The inflammation of conjunctivita is triggered by external agents such as air current. But it can also be due to pathogens like viruses and bacteria.
  • Glaucoma is linked to a problem with pressure in the eyes.
  • Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelid.
  • Corneal damage is caused by a viral or bacterial infection.
  • Episcleritis, also called "scleritis,” is an inflammation of the white of the eye.

All of these conditions and injuries can be treated. Of course, the earlier the diagnosis, the faster the treatment will take effect. Don’t hesitate to arrange for a consultation if in doubt.

What are the treatments for red eyes?

The treatment you need to follow depends on what’s causing your red eyes. Infections such as conjunctivitis should be treated by a professional. In all cases, it’s recommended that you refrain from rubbing or scratching your eyes. This could make the situation worse.

In general, the treatment care is often localized. It helps alleviate the symptoms:

  • When the redness comes from dry eyes, eye drops have a soothing effect and improve comfort.
  • If there’s dust or any other foreign object in your eye, rinse them with water. Then apply eye drops to hydrate them well and relieve unpleasant symptoms.
  • If you’re experiencing severe eye fatigue, don’t hesitate to apply lukewarm water compresses to your eyes. Place them on your closed eyes and relax.
  • Taking a break from your screen or wearing blue light filter glasses are also effective in relieving symptoms.
  • During a visit to an eyecare professional, you may also be prescribed ointment or antibiotics.

Regardless of your symptoms, consider resting your eyes. Getting a good 7-8 hours of sleep is also particularly effective. This is because your body repairs itself the best while you’re asleep. Sleeping well will speed up the healing process and improve the problems caused by dry eyes.

What are the consequences of redness in the eyes?

Eye irritations are most often mild. These visual disturbances are often only a temporary irritation to the eye. Over the course of a lifetime, we are all prone to having more than one bout. This is especially true if you work outdoors or in front of a screen all day.

However, there are some signs that can alert you if it’s a potentially worrisome injury or illness. These include:

  • Pain
  • The redness in your eyes doesn’t subside, even after a good night's rest
  • A puss-like discharge from your eyes
  • Reduced visual acuity
  • You are easily blinded
  • You see a halo of light
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea.

Examinations are necessary for all of the above cases. Don’t hesitate to arrange for a consultation, because the health of your eyes is important. An appointment will help you know precisely what to do to quickly regain your visual comfort.