Published: 06/01/2014 - Updated: 02/18/2016
It is likely that all or many of us have experienced red eyes more than once in our lifetime. This irritation is due to inflammation and dilation of blood vessels in the sclera (the white surface of the eye).
Other symptoms that may accompany red eyes are itching, eye discharge, swollen eyes and visual disturbances, such as blurring.
Why do they appear?
Red eyes can appear due to various causes, some of the most common are allergies, eye strain, overuse of contact lenses, and eye infections.
However, the redness of the eye can sometimes indicate a more serious condition, such as glaucoma. If red eyes persist or worsen, it is important to see a specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Common Causes of Red Eyes
Conjunctivitis: One of the most common infections of the eyes, and is characterized by so-called "red eye". It is highly contagious and occurs when the conjunctiva is infected, so that the blood vessels become irritated and swell giving an appearance of red or pink eye. It commonly occurs in children of school age.
Dry eyes: Dry eye syndrome occurs when the tear glands produce an insufficient amount of tears or tears of a quality which does not adequately lubricate the eye. Chronic dry eye can cause the surface of the eye to become inflamed and irritated. It can be treated by using lubricating eye drops, but it is important to seek expert advice.
Allergies: The reddening of eyes is often associated with allergies due to the release of histamine in the body, which is produced during an allergic reaction and can cause blood vessels in the eyes to dilate, causing them to become red and watery. If you are prone to allergies, it is important to avoid contact with agents that can trigger a reaction of this type.
Contact Lenses: One of the main causes for red and irritated eyes are contact lenses. Poor care, and wear caused by contact lenses can cause a buildup of irritants. If you have red eyes due to the use of contact lenses, this can indicate an infection - it is important to stop using them immediately and consult your doctor. The persistent use of contact lenses can also worsen red eyes if already present, because this reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the cornea, especially if they are not fitted properly. It is advisable not to use this type of lens if you are someone who suffers from red eyes.
Computer vision syndrome: Spending long hours at the computer without a break may be cause red eye accompanied by a burning sensation and fatigue. Usually this is because you blink less when working at the computer screen and as a result the surface of the eye becomes dry. To reduce visual fatigue, it is advised to take regular breaks while working at the computer, and also the use of special glasses. Artificial tears can help control dry eyes due to computer vision syndrome.
Eye injuries: After a trauma or eyelid surgery, the eye may be red as a result. Eye injuries can range from minor scratches to deep puncture wounds or burns from a chemical agent. Whatever the cause, it should always be treated as an emergency and therefore it is important to consult your eye doctor immediately.
Other causes of red eye include pregnancy, lack of sleep, swimming, smoking, exposure to environmental pollution and irritants. Red eyes also may also be due to diseases such as glaucoma, uveitis, etc.
Recommendations to avoid red eyes
Get enough sleep: A good rest prevents redeye, and other discomforts that may be associated with the eyes.
Do not rub your eyes: Rubbing your eyes with dirty hands can cause irritation due to pollutants that are carried on the hands and fingers, along with the risk of injuring yourself.
Keep your contact lenses clean: If you use this type of lens, a good standard of lens hygiene is very important, otherwise the lens may be contaminated which could lead to an infection.
Rest of the Monitor: Try to rest your eyes every 20 minutes if you are working in front of the monitor for at least 20 seconds.
Control Allergies: Keep allergies at bay by avoiding contact with allergens and ask your doctor about your options for addressing them.
Check your eyes: If you notice recurring redness in the eyes, schedule an appointment with a specialist to rule out any associated diseases.
Do not abuse the use of whitening eye drops: While they may be useful in the beginning, their continuous and prolonged use can aggravate red eyes.
Natural remedies for red eyes
Treatment for red eyes may vary according to the cause, so a diagnosis made by a professional is advisable.
Some home remedies are useful, when the cause of red eye is not serious.
Apply cold compresses
Splash ice cold water on the face and eyes, then wrap an ice cube in a clean cotton towel and place on eyelids closed without pressure. This helps relieve irritated eyes and eyelids.
Prepare chamomile tea with a teaspoon of chamomile flowers in a cup of boiling water, let it stand, strain and then wait for it to cool. The infusion used to wash your eyes also can be used in compresses.
You can apply a gauze or cotton balls soaked in Hammamelis Water (Witchhazel) for swollen eyes.
A very common and simple remedy is fresh cucumber slices. Apply them on your closed eyelids for 10 minutes. Cucumber properties make it ideal for refreshing and alleviating inflammation associated with red eyes.
Rosewater provides relief to irritated and itchy eyes. To apply, simply moisten a cotton ball in rose water and rest it on the closed eye (this may cause mild discomfort) for about 5 minutes.
The potato has astringent properties, which helps to reduce swollen eyes. To make use of it, you just have to grate a little potato and place on the closed eye, keeping it there for roughly 15 minutes (this may cause mild discomfort).
If after implementing these remedies your red eyes do not improve or get worse, do not forget to consult a specialist.
Furthermore, if your red eyes are accompanied by other symptoms such as pain, swelling of eyelids or burning, make it a priority to see a specialist as soon as possible