What Causes Bloodshot Eyes and How Can You Prevent It?
At one time or another we are all likely to have experienced bloodshot eyes. There are multiple possible causes, many harmless and even painless, but some rather more serious – if you experience red eyes for more than a day or two, or experience any pain or loss of vision, be sure visit an eye health specialist.
Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is one of the most common causes of bloodshot eyes. This is an inflammation of the eyelids and the clear film of liquid which coats the eyeball, the conjunctiva. Although it’s transparent, the conjunctiva does contain blood vessels, and they dilate if inflamed, leading to bloodshot eyes. There are many causes of conjunctivitis including; virus or bacterial infections, seasonal allergies or hay-fever, or even an allergy to dust or animals.
Tears - Not Just for Crying!
Aside from crying, our eyes produce tears constantly that lubricate our eyes. If they don’t produce enough, the surface of the eye can become irritated and inflamed, leading to red eye. This can make your eyes itch, burn, or feel like there’s something stuck in them. Your doctor may prescribe eye drops to make up for a chronic tear insufficiency, better known as dry eye syndrome.
Staring at the Screen too long?
Computer vision syndrome is a real condition caused by prolonged periods of time spent staring at electronic screens (including tablets and smartphones). The strain on the eye from extended viewing/browsing, and the fact we blink less when looking at screens, mean our eyes may dry out, leading to the same sort of problems as dry eye syndrome: irritated, itchy, or inflamed eyes – all of which could turn them bloodshot. When working with electronic devices, it's important to remember the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Pain in the Eyes?
Red eye accompanied by pain, reduced vision or higher sensitivity to light could be symptomatic of a serious illness like glaucoma, uveitis, ocular herpes, or a corneal ulcer. If these diseases go untreated they can threaten your sight, so if your red eyes are painful or restrict your vision, be sure to seek medical attention.
Smoking & Drinking
Tobacco, alcohol and particularly cannabis are all known to cause red eyes. Tobacco smoke is a toxic irritant which dries out the eyes, and increases the risk of a wide range of ocular diseases, including cataracts. Alcohol reduces the amount of oxygen in our red blood cells, which can cause blood to clot in your eyes, and cannabis significantly dilates the ocular blood vessels for long periods at a time.
Swimming too much, Sleeping too little?
Some of the more common, everyday reasons for red eyes are exposure to bacteria in water (both in chlorinated swimming pools and the sea) – so wear some goggles! And never wear your contacts in the water, as it puts you at risk of contracting serious infections. Last but not least, as we have all experienced at least once, simply not getting enough sleep can leave you with red, puffy eyes in the morning.