Bloodshot eyes means that the small vessels on the surface of the eyeball are dilated and visible.

Symptoms of Bloodshot Eyes

  • Red spidery veins on the white of the eyeball
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    What Causes Bloodshot Eyes?

    Eyedrops Image - Masterfile

    Many people notice that their eyes are red on awakening. Lack of sleep, alcohol consumption the night before, overuse of contact lenses or an allergy are among the possible causes.

    Bloodshot eyes during the day can be caused by an irritant, eyestrain, rubbing your eyes excessively, or anything that tends to dry your eyes (high heat and low humidity, or insufficient tear production).

    Colds, coughing or strain, flu, and hay fever can produce bloodshot eyes as well, but occasionally the condition can be a sign of underlying disease or injury.

    Conjunctivitis, or pinkeye, which is usually more alarming in appearance than bloodshot eyes, is an infection that produces very red, irritated eyes, as well as itching and a discharge. Blepharitis is another eye infection (of the eyelid) that produces redness, typically accompanied by a crust forming over the eyelashes.

    What If You Do Nothing?

    Most commonly, if the cause is external and temporary, bloodshot eyes improve by themselves.

    Home Remedies for Bloodshot Eyes

    • Wash your face and eyelids. Using cold water can help and so can cold compresses.
    • Try over-the-counter eyedrops and eyewashes. Drops usually contain a decongestant to constrict blood vessels; eyewashes usually contain boric acid or a saline solution. Both may help. But be sure to follow instructions carefully with any eye product. Overuse of some eyedrops can actually increase redness. Eyecups can be a source of infection, so use only the disposable kind.

    Beyond Home Remedies: When To Call Your Doctor

    If you think you have an eye infection, or if your eyes don’t clear up right away, or if you have eye pain or changes in vision, you should seek medical advice.

    What Your Doctor Will Do

    Your doctor will check your vision, your eyes, and eyelids. If there is an infection, antibiotic eyedrops or ointments may be prescribed.

    Over-the-Counter Eyedrops

    Most eyedrops are rarely necessary. Eyes do not normally need “cleansing,” “soothing,” or “refreshing” solutions. Your tears, which contain antibacterial agents, are the most effective eye cleansers. Though they may be soothing, over-the-counter drops can mask symptoms of eye infection and disease. If there is irritation or redness for more than a day or two, seek professional advice. And if you wear contact lenses, use only eyedrops recommended by your eye-care specialist.

    Any liquid you put in your eyes should be sterile and should therefore be bought in a drugstore. There’s one exception: emergencies. If you get dirt or a toxic chemical in your eye, there won’t be time to find a sterile solution—just wash your eye with plenty of tap water.

    In October 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to consumers to keep OTC and prescription eye drops out of the reach of young children. Accidentally swallowing these products can cause serious symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, lethargy (sleepiness), tachycardia (fast heart beat) and coma, that may require hospitalization.


    The Complete Home Wellness Handbook

    John Edward Swartzberg, M.D., F.A.C.P., Sheldon Margen, M.D., and the editors of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter

    U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

    Updated by Remedy Health Media

    Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

    Published: 06 Oct 2011

    Last Modified: 14 Sep 2015