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9 Reasons You Have Bloodshot Eyes—and How to Fix Them

Red, itchy, inflamed eyes are never easy to deal with. Find out what could be causing discomfort in your eye and how you can avoid it completely.

Woman applying eye drops to one of her eyes.istock/parema

Dry eyes

Dry eyes are one of the common causes for red and bloodshot eyes. When your eyes are dry, they become irritated and inflamed, which causes redness. Svetlana Fisher, OD, of Specs Appeal Optometry in West Hollywood, CA, says that while dry eyes are often caused by a dry climate, they can also be caused by looking at a computer screen for too long. Fisher recommends using artificial tears to help with dry eyes. You can also try these 10 home remedies for dry and irritated eyes.

Closeup image of a person's bloodshot eye.istock/ia_64

Allergies

“Many people are not aware that their household pets can cause bloodshot eyes,” says Fisher. She says that getting them groomed often and keeping their hair short can help with preventing your eyes from getting itchy and inflamed. Seasonal and dust allergies can also cause bloodshot eyes. Always make sure to keep your house clean, especially during seasons where there is a lot of pollen in the air. Another tip that Fisher recommends is changing out your carpets for hardwood floors. Beyond inflammation, allergies can also cause you to have watery eyes. To help, try applying a cold compress to your eyes multiple times a day or eye drops specifically for allergies. These 11 natural remedies for allergies can also provide relief.

Pile of medications: tablets, pills and capsules.istock/AlexRaths

Certain medications

Many common medications that some people take on a daily basis can cause bloodshot eyes. Antihistamines, sleeping pills, anti-anxiety pills, and some pain relievers like ibuprofen cause dryness and redness by reducing blood flow to the tissue in and around the eye. Use artificial tears to help with the dryness. Here are 13 secrets your eye doctor isn’t telling you.

Picture of the dictionary definition of menopause.istock/Devonyu

Menopause

Fisher says that older women are much more prone to having dry, bloodshot eyes because of menopause. The changing levels and imbalance of hormones causes your eyes to be dry, which can lead to redness. Fisher recommends using ocular lubricants, artificial tears, or a hot compress.

Sleepy man covering his face and lying on his bed.istock/kieferpix

Not enough sleep

Your eyes need the chance to recharge overnight. If you are getting less than 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night, it could be causing bloodshot eyes. As a temporary fix, you can use moisturizing eye drops. But in the long run, it will be beneficial to work on normalizing your sleeping schedule and cutting out brightly lit screens at least one hour before bed to improve your quality of sleep. Try these 13 ways to get a better night’s sleep.

Contact lens on a person's finger.istock/MorePixels

Contact lenses

Contact lenses can cause red, dry, and itchy eyes since you are constantly touching your eye and because the contact lens can dry out. Having something on the eye constantly can cause irritation. If you find that you can’t wear your contacts for long periods of time because of irritation, talk to your eye doctor about switching brands. And here’s why you shouldn’t sleep in your contact lenses.

Person widening their bloodshot eye with their fingers.istock/Srisakorn

Infections

It is common to get both bacterial and viral infections in your eyes, especially if you are around children or use contact lenses. Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is the most well-known infection. (Here are 7 pink eye symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.) Fisher says that if you see any discharge from the eye, are experiencing pain, reduced vision, or sensitivity, you most likely have pink eye and should see a doctor immediately.

Two glasses of tequila with lime slices. istock/Jennifer_Sharp

Alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol causes your blood vessels to relax, which makes your eyes look red. To reduce the redness, try an eye whitening drop such as Visine. It will constrict the blood vessels and get rid of your bloodshot eyes. Avoid using Visine and other vasoconstrictors indefinitely as it will cause rebound redness that can be worse than what you started with.

Person's hand hooked up to an IV drip in the hospital.istock/Kurt-Drubbel

Popped blood vessel

Popped blood vessels can happen when a lot of pressure or strain is put on your eye. Often you can tell when you’ve popped a blood vessel versus just having bloodshot eyes because it will only appear in one eye. If that happens, see an eye doctor immediately.

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Medically reviewed by Mark Scroggs, MD, on August 20, 2019