Common Eye Problems: Red eye—why do I have it and how do I get rid of it?

Nobody likes red eye. It’s no fun when you look in the mirror and discover two bloodshot eyes staring back at you. But what causes it? A long list of culprits can lead to eye redness, including illness, injury, fatigue, eye infections, irritants or allergies. But how do you know if it’s serious? And what’s the best way to get rid of it?

Unfortunately, getting red eye is very common. Most of the time there is no reason to worry. But if you get red eye quite often, or if your eyes don’t return to normal in a couple of days, you may want to see a doctor. You should seek help immediately if your vision changes suddenly, the redness is accompanied by strong pain or unusual sensitivity to light, your eyes are swollen/unable to open, or something is in your eye. 

Below are a few of the most common causes of red eye: 

Allergies: This is one of the most common causes. Pollen, pet dander and bee venom are examples of substances that cause your immune system to produce antibodies. Your immune system may cause a reaction that irritates your eyes and causes other symptoms. Over-the-counter or prescribed drugs may help. 

Blepharitis: This is an inflammation of the eyelids and occurs when glands near the base of the eyelashes become clogged. It can be uncomfortable, but the good news is that it’s not contagious and usually doesn’t cause permanent damage. 

Dry eyes: This common condition is a result of your tears not adequately lubricating your eyes. It can sometimes be caused by wind, air conditioning or straining your eyes at your computer screen for too long. Your doctor may prescribe eye drops if the problem persists. 

Foreign object in eye: If you get something in your eye, you should flush the object out with a stream of clean, warm water. But try not to rub your eyes, and don’t try to remove an object if it is embedded or causing extreme pain. Instead, seek emergency care. 

Glaucoma: This is a more serious condition that can damage the optic nerve, typically caused by abnormally high pressure in your eye. In some cases, there may not be warning signs, so it’s important for your doctor to regularly check your eyes for this condition. 

Pink eye (conjunctivitis): Pink eye is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, a transparent membrane that lines your eyelid and covers the white part of your eyeball. When the small blood vessels become inflamed, they cause your eye to appear pinkish or red. This condition is contagious, and you should see a doctor for treatment. 

Sty: This is a red lump near the edge of the eyelid. It is sometimes painful and often filled with pus. Most of the time, a sty will go away on its own in a few days. It may help to apply a warm washcloth to your eye. 

If you have questions about common eye problems like red eye, and you don’t have vision insurance to help pay for an eye doctor visit, we invite you to consider getting an individual vision plan from VSP Direct. Check out our vision plan rates and benefits. With a vision insurance plan, you’ll be on your way to keeping your eyes healthy and saving money.