Red (Bloodshot) Eyes – Causes, Symptoms and Natural Remedies

Do you sometimes experience the unappealing red eye symptoms? When you look yourself in the mirror there it is: your eye is reddish and looks like it has blood in it. You may end up wondering why this happens and if the condition is serious.

What are bloodshot eyes?

Red eyes are nothing more than blood vessels that are dilated and swollen in your eyes. This condition usually is not serious, but may need your full attention.

When eyes need protection, sensitized mast cells start to release histamine that can cause redness and tearing. If this condition lasts for a while, it could cause long-term damage to surface of the eye.


What are the causes of red eyes?

There are many causes of red eyes. They can be divided into two major groups: external and internal.

External factors include:

  • Airborne allergens
  • Environmental irritants
  • Not having enough sleep
  • Viruses
  • Bacteria

Internal factors include more serious problems like:

  • Blepharitis
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Corneal ulcers
  • Scleritis
  • Acute glaucoma

Airborne allergens that could trigger bloodshot eyes include pollen, dust, animal dander, wind, dry air, sun, and many more. These allergens could make eyes not only red or bloodshot, but also itchy, burning, and watery. They even can cause swollen eyelids and produce a discharge.

Environmental irritants that can lead to bloodshot eyes include many chemicals such as most household detergents, swimming pool chlorine, pepper spray, etc.

How red eyes appear in the first place?

Sometimes our eyes needs protection from various irritants such as allergens and other environmental irritants. As mentioned earlier, small particles like pollen, dust, animal dander, wind, dry air, and sun can irritate eyes so they become red.

These external factors start to irritate eye cornea, which is the outer layer of the eye. Because of that in the eye cells start to produce and release histamine. Histamine is a monoamine that fights inflammation. But when it’s present for long time it could damage tissue.

What are the symptoms of red eyes?

There’re a lot of symptoms associated with red eyes. Depending on the underlying cause symptoms can be mild as just redness or serious like falling out of the eyelashes. Some of them include:


  • Burning sensation
  • Watery eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Itchy eyelids
  • Swollen eyelid
  • Thick or watery discharge
  • Foreign body sensation
  • Photophobia (light sensitivity)
  • Dermatitis (crusting or scaling of the eyelid skin)
  • Eyelashes falling out (typically associated with blepharitis)

How to get rid of red eyes?

In the majority of cases red eyes are not serious condition and will pass within days. Most people don’t need any medication for red eyes treatment. But in the case of serious condition that cause red eyes, visiting ophthalmologist is a smart thing to do.


Having said all that, it is important to relieve the discomfort and irritation that accompanies red eyes syndrome. There’re two medications that successfully resolve all these problems:

  • Eye drops that contain vasoconstrictors and
  • Artificial tears.

Vasoconstrictors are chemicals that temporarily constrict blood vessels of the eyes. However, once a patient discontinue use of vasoconstrictors, eyes may become even redder. So better solution is using artificial tears.

In cases where bacterial infection is cause of red eyes, for example with conjunctivitis, physician may prescribe antibiotics. You should give one to two weeks for the infection to pass when using antibiotics. Also, if you decide to take antibiotics, follow your doctor’s orders strictly and take the entire box in order to prevent bacterial resistance.

On the other hand, viral conjunctivitis are very contagious and harder to treat. Viral conjunctivitis is typically caused by adenovirus. The medicament that is good for treating viral conjunctivitis is topical ganciclovir. It is a combination of topical agent that contains betadine and low-dose dexamethasone.

Some other medication for red eye treatment include oral antihistamines, and pain relievers. Oral antihistamines prevent allergies. So they’re good choice for treating allergic conjunctivitis. In fact, antihistamines prevent histamine release. When there’s no histamine inflammation, irritation, and  red colour of the eye should vanish.

What are the natural ways for curing bloodshot eyes?

Warm compresses for red eye problems

warm compress

warm compress

Warm compresses are very beneficial when treating bloodshot eye problems. Warmth is good for releasing pain, itching, and relax eye muscle. Although warmth dilates blood vessels and increase circulation and redness, it’s beneficial for removing other symptoms like burning sensation, itchy eyes, and itchy eyelids.

There’re two types of warm compresses – dry warm compresses and moist warm compresses.

Dry warm compresses are good for stimulating the oil glands to produce more oil. This is beneficial if you suffer from red eyes with oily discharge or if you have the Meibomian gland dysfunction.

Also, dry compresses are beneficial for people with dry eyes and those who find their tears evaporate too quickly.

Moist warm compresses on the other hand are more suitable if you experience eye muscle pain.

Cold compresses for red eye problems

Your doctor may prescribe you cold compresses to help relieve the symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis. This will help you reduce irritation and heat from the eyes.

Also cold compresses are good for blood circulation around the eyes. If your bloodshot eyes are caused by eye strain, cold compresses are excellent choice. Cold compresses are helpful with sensation of burning and painful eyes.

Camomile tea is anti-redness tea

You may want to treat your red eyes with camomile tea which is for centuries been used for eye problems. Camomile in its daisy-like flowers, contain many volatile oils such as bisabolol, bisabolol oxides A and B, and matricin.

It also contains flavonoids particularly a compound called apigenin. All these substances have therapeutic effects. Camomile has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, antispasmodic, anti-allergenic and sedative properties. Thus it is suiting for the eyes, and prevents redness.

To make a topical camomile tea compress, steep a couple of bags in a pot and boil water for about 10 minutes. Pour onto cloth. Before putting the cloth on your eyes make sure it’s not hot.

If you have a ragweed allergy, don’t use camomile because the two plants are closely related. In such cases camomile may cause allergic reaction and actually worsen the eye redness.

Sterile saline rinses and eye lubricants

Sterile saline rinses can soothe irritated eyes and help eliminate allergens. If the cause of your bloodshot eyes are allergies, use sterile saline rinses. You can use commercially available rinses or make your own at home.

To make sterile saline solution use salt from the grocery store. Avoid using rock salt or sea salt, because they may contain chemicals in it. The best way is to take 9 grams of salt per one liter of water or 1 teaspoon of salt per cup of water. It’s best to use distilled water or reverse osmosis purified water, because they don’t contain any microorganisms in it.

Diet that prevents inflammation can help with red eyes

If the cause of your bloodshot eyes isn’t bacterial or viral infection, then you can incorporate anti-inflammatory food into your diet. Anti-inflammatory diet will prevent eye redness. Incorporate these anti-inflammatory food into your daily diet:

Consume fiber every day

foods-high-in-fiber

High fiber food

Diet rich in fiber will not only prevent inflammation, but also boost your immunity. Fiber are not digested by the body, but instead serve as a food to good bacteria.

In fact, fiber helps improve good-to-bad bacteria ratio in the intestine and colon. Good bacteria are probiotic bacteria and that’s why fiber that feed them are called prebiotics.

Food rich in fiber include:

  • Whole grains such as barley and oatmeal
  • Vegetables like onions, chicory root
  • Fruits like bananas, blueberries
  • Flaxseed and chia seeds
  • Lentils and beans

Diet rich in fiber will prevent bloodshot eyes.

Eat your fruits and veggies

Listen to your mother and eat your fruits and veggies every day. Daily dose of fruits and veggies that will prevent inflammation and help with red eyes is 4 cups of cooked fruits and vegetables or one cup of raw.

It’s best to consume seasonal fruits and veggies. Fruits and vegetables are excellent for overall health. Many of them are rich in fiber which means they’re anti-inflammatory and will help prevent bloodshot eyes.

Consume lots of onions and cruciferous vegetables

Onions and cruciferous vegetables are excellent choice when fighting bloodshot eyes. Cruciferous vegetables include:

  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Bok choy
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Kale and
  • Cauliflower

Onions are members of the Allium family. Onions and cruciferous vegetables are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances that will help in prevention of red eyes.

Eat omega-3 fatty acids

Food rich in omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and they help with bloodshot eyes.

Consume food such as:

  • Flax meal
  • Walnuts
  • Beans

Consume cold-water fish such as:

  • Salmon
  • Herring
  • Trout
  • Sardines

Consume Healthy fats like:

  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

helps with systemic inflammation in the gut. It is important to deal with systemic    inflammation when dealing with stress management. Lowering systemic inflammation also promotes hormone production. So overall eye redness will decrease if you eat healthy fats.

Eat anti-inflammatory herbs

Of course the food won’t be so tasteful without herbs. So use them because they’re excellent when fighting any inflammation. Herbs will help with decrease red eyes as well. The most important herbs that decrease inflammation are:

  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Cayenne paper
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Sage
  • Rosemary

Food to avoid if you deal with bloodshot eyes

There’re certain type of food you should avoid when dealing with red eyes. This type of food promotes inflammation and burdens entire organism. Food to avoid includes:

Food that promotes allergies

There are many types of food allergens. If you suspect you’re allergic to some type of food allergen, you should first introduce eliminating diet to find out what is the cause of your allergies.

Here’s a short list of food rich in common allergens:

  • Gluten
  • Nuts
  • Shellfish and seafood
  • Dairy
  • Eggs

When dealing with red eyes avoid these type of food as much as you can.

Alcohol and caffeine

alcohol

alcohol & caffeine

Coffee, caffeinated drinks, and alcohol negatively influence inflammation and redness. Try to cut back with both to see if your symptoms improve.

Sugar and processed food

There’s no brainer that refined sugar and processed food are not good for overall health. They increase inflammation, oxidative stress, irritate gut lining which is crucial in immunological defence.

Processed food contains many artificial sweeteners and ingredients such as preservatives and texture stabilizers that promote allergic reactions. Mild form of allergic response is redness so you should avoid these type of food.

Conventional dairy products

Many people discovered that eliminating conventional cow’s dairy like yogurt, cheese, milk, ice cream, helps decrease inflammation and redness.

Fried food, trans-fats and hydrogenated oils

Refined vegetable oils are high in omega-6 amino acids which are pro-inflammatory. Refined vegetable oils are present in fried food, they contain more trans-fats and hydrogenated oils.

All these unhealthy oils promote oxidative stress and can aggravate gut microflora. Gut microflora along with prebiotics that feed them are essential for immune responses, allergies, redness. They even influence mood disorders and brain functioning.

In conclusion

Red or bloodshot eyes can occur due to many reasons. If you’re facing this problem, there’s a great chance you won’t need to see your ophthalmologist, because the condition will resolve by itself within few days or a week. But in some cases when the condition is the consequence of more serious eye problems such as bacterial or viral conjunctivitis or acute glaucoma it’s best to consult your doctor.

There’re many ways for you to prevent discomforting bloodshot eyes symptoms. The main one is red, inflamed eyes that can lead to itching, swollen eyes or eyelids, thick or watery discharge, foreign body sensation.

You can use false tears as they don’t contain vasoconstrictors that can worsen situation afterwards. Also, there’re a lot of natural ways to fight red eye symptoms. Some of them include: diet that prevents inflammation (anti-inflammatory diet), dry or moist warm eye compresses, cold eye compresses, camomile tea, sterile saline rinses, and eye lubricants.

It doesn’t matter how you choose to prevent red eyes and red eyes symptoms, be patient and soon you’ll see the results.

Let us know in the comments what worked for you. Share your experience with getting rid of red eyes.

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