Common Causes of Bloodshot Eyes
Bloodshot eyes, also known as red eye, refers to the whites of the eyes becoming reddened or ‘bloodshot’. But this isn’t a rare occurrence and it’s usually not a sign of anything severe, even if it looks worrying. Bloodshot eyes are caused by the blood vessels in the sclera becoming swollen, leading to small visible lines occurring or the entire whites of the eyes becoming red. This might be because of an injury, an allergy or an eye condition or sometimes for no related cause whatsoever. Swelling of the blood vessels might be the reason for your bloodshot eyes but there are often additional factors that contribute to this problem developing. Here are some of the most common causes that could be to blame for your red eyes and how to tackle them.
Conjunctivitis is the top reason for bloodshot eyes and it’s a condition where the conjunctiva becomes irritated as a result of an allergic reaction or an infection. The conjunctiva is a transparent membrane that covers the inside of the eyelids and outside of the eyeball. Conjunctivitis is incredibly contagious so it’s vital that you have your eyes tested by an optician or GP if you think you might have it so they can prescribe medication. Another way to help ease the symptoms of conjunctivitis is to maintain proper hygiene, keeping your eyes clean to remove any debris from your eyelashes.
Poor Contact Lens Use
If you’ve not been using your contact lenses properly, you might find yourself more susceptible to bloodshot eyes. Good hygiene is crucial when you’re using contact lenses as you can easily transfer bacteria to the eye from your hands if they’re not clean, which can lead to an infection. Make sure you wash and dry your hands thoroughly before removing or inserting your lenses and make sure you throw them away each day if they’re daily disposables. If you are using monthly lenses or two week disposables make sure you regularly clean the storage container and use fresh solution each time you store them away to reduce bacteria from building up on the lens.
While eye whitening drops are designed to reduce redness in your eyes, overusing them can actually have the reverse effect and make the redness worse. This is because over time your eyes build up a resistance to the drops which makes them less effective. Known as rebound hyperaemia, this problem is caused by the blood flow to the eyes becoming restricted which causes the redness. If you have a habit of relying on whitening drops after a late night, try to cut back on how often you use them and get some good-quality rest instead.
Allergies are a well-known cause of bloodshot eyes, as triggers such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander and perfumes lead to itching and burning. When we rub our eyes too much, we can cause the delicate tissues to tear and blood vessels to constrict which leads to redness. Over the counter medication such as anti-histamines can help you deal with allergies more effectively but check with your GP before taking them to ensure you’re treating the right condition.
Cold and Flu Viruses
You’ve no doubt experienced your eyes becoming red and irritated when you’ve been trying to get over a cold or the flu. This is especially the case if your illness is causing you to sneeze or cough a lot. The redness in this case is just a temporary side effect of your bug and once you begin to recover, the bloodshot eyes should disappear, but over the counter medication can help relieve some of the symptoms.
Tired and Dry Eyes
Whether it’s from excessive screen time causing your eyes to feel irritated, or you’ve not been getting enough shut-eye lately and are tired throughout the day, bloodshot eyes are a common side effect of dry eyes. This is because your eyelids begin to excessively blink to try and lubricate the eye. Eye drops can help alleviate this problem but it’s also important to remember to take regular screen breaks, cut back on the TV binges and make sure you get plenty of sleep.
Alcohol, Smoking and Drugs
There are many reasons why alcohol, tobacco and drugs are bad for your health but what’s not as well-known is the effect these substances can have on our eye health. Smoke form cigarettes or marijuana can lead to irritation and redness in the eyes, while drinking alcohol can cause the red blood cells to group together which not only causes bloodshot eyes but also a ruddy complexion.
How to Keep Your Eyes Healthy
Bloodshot eyes don’t just affect your appearance, but they can also be painful, causing your eyes to become sensitive to light and blurring your vision. If you’re noticing that you suffer with bloodshot eyes on a regular basis, it’s important to book in a visit to your optician as soon as possible to check your eyes are healthy. In most cases, bloodshot eyes are a temporary side effect of another problem and clear up on their own, but if the cause of the redness is an injury or an eye condition, it’s best to have them checked to make sure there’s no lasting damage. To keep your eyes healthy and free from irritation and redness, it’s good practice to get plenty of sleep, eat well and follow good hygiene rules to minimise the risk of an infection developing.