My Eyes Are Bloodshot- Should I Be Worried?

A lot of people wake up with bloodshot eyes. Most of the time we chalk it up to staying up too late, had a few too many drinks the night before, or spent time around smoke. But, in some cases, bloodshot eyes can be an indicator of something more. 

What Causes Bloodshot Eyes?

Blood rushes to the front of the eye which makes the tiny blood vessels on the white part of the eye to dilate and become more visible. This makes the eyes appear red and irritated. 

This is commonly caused by:

  • Dry Eyes
  • Exposure to smoke, pollen, and perfume
  • Lack of sleep
  • Alcohol
  • Screen time

Now, most of the time it will disappear on its own, or you can try to relieve them with over-the-counter artificial tears. Also, getting more sleep, cutting down on alcohol, and taking breaks from the computer will help. So, if allergies are causing the problem, oral antihistamines as well as antihistamine eye drops may help. 

Occasionally, underlying problems cause the eye’s blood vessels too dilate. However, this could require prompt medical attention. 


This is commonly referred to as “pink eye”. So, this is actually called infectious conjunctivitis, which is an infection of the conjunctiva, the clear layer that covers the front surface of the eye. The infection can be bacterial or viral in nature. 

Kids commonly get bacterial conjunctivitis, about 12% of kids each year! It is highly contagious and can affect adults as well. Here are other symptoms that include reddish eyes:

  • Bacterial: irritated eyes, swollen eyelids, discharge, crusty eyelids and watering
    • Bacterial conjunctivitis is treated with antibiotics whereas viral conjunctivitis must run its course over a few days. Cold compresses and artificial tears can help soothe the eyes. 
  • Viral: cold or flu-like symptoms, runny nose, fever, itchy eyes, and watering

Dry Eye

Chronic bloodshot eyes is pretty typical for dry eye. Signs of this include:

  • Dry, gritty eyes
  • Burning eyes
  • Discharge
  • Light sensitivity
  • Feeling like something is in the eye
  • Blurry vision
  • Watery eyes

Dry eye is most commonly caused by the blockage of small glands that line the eyelid called meibomian glands. The glands have oil inside them that will secrete and prevent tears from evaporating too quickly off of the eye. When the oil isn’t coating the eye properly due to blockage, the tears evaporate quickly leaving the eyes feeling dry and bloodshot.

Screen time, general aging, certain medications, and medical conditions can causes dry eye as well. 


If you have bloodshot eyes and are also experiencing blurry vision, floaters, and painful eyes, you may have uveitis which is eye inflammation.

Causes of uveitis include:

  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Infections
  • Medications
  • Cancer

If untreated, uveitis can lead to retinal scarring, cataracts, and vision loss. So, it is very important when your eyes are bloodshot to schedule an exam to make sure that you aren’t suffering from uveitis. It is usually treated with steroid eye drops. More severe cases may need oral steroids, injections, or implants. 


It is so important that all eye injuries get immediate evaluation. Even minor injuries can cause a subconjunctival hemorrhage which is basically a bruise on the eye. It is a broken blood vessel that causes the white part of the eye to appear blood red. Typically, it actually looks worse than it is. It is usually painless and doesn’t require any treatment. 


In rare causes, bloodshot eyes can actually be a sign of glaucoma. This is caused by sudden increase in eye pressure that causes the blood vessels to become dilated, making the eye red. 

Bloodshot eyes can be caused by a wide range of diseases, from the very innocent to more severe, which is why it is so important to have your eyes evaluated when they appear red. 

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