You walk into work and the first thing your coworker says is, “Your eyes are so red today!” They might give you a hard time about staying up too late on a work night, but in fact there are several causes of red eye.

Seasonal or Environmental Allergies

Pets, pollen, dust, and mold can all cause allergic reactions. Allergies are often accompanied by sneezing, nasal congestion, and watery eyes.

Trapped Particles

Probably the most common particle that will become stuck in your eye is an eyelash. Sawdust, dirt, or sand are also common culprits that become trapped. You can use a cool compress or flush out the particle with an eye wash or tap water. It is never recommended to rub the eye even though it is often the natural reaction. Wearing protective eyeglasses when doing tasks with flying debris is also recommended.

Corneal Abrasions

A corneal abrasion is simply a scratch on the surface of your eye. It may not always be obvious how a scratch occurs. You could scratch your eye just by rubbing when there is a small dust particle on the surface. A corneal abrasion may feel like you have something in or on your eye even if you can’t see anything.

Broken Blood Vessels

A broken blood vessel sounds scary, but it is usually harmless. Persistent coughing, sneezing, and vomiting is often the cause.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

There are several forms of conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye. Bacterial conjunctivitis is contagious and needs to be treated with prescription ointment or eye drops. Besides having red eyes, you will likely have discharge in the corner of your eye. If you have these symptoms and think you have pink eye it is important you see your eye doctor right away.

Digital Eye Strain

Using a computer, tablet, or smartphone for an extended period of time can cause red eye. Less computer time is ideal, but many people must use a computer at work. Because of this the 20-20-20 rule was created. Simply take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes. This will help to alleviate eye strain and redness. Reducing overhead lighting can also help decrease screen glare.

A Lack of Sleep

When your body is deprived of sleep, there’s a decrease in the amount of oxygen that reaches your eyes. The blood vessels in your eyes dilate, giving your eyes an overall reddish appearance.

Too Much Alcohol

Like a sleepless night, too much alcohol causes the blood vessels in your eyes to dilate. The more you drink, the redder they’ll appear. As the alcohol leaves your system, your eyes should clear up.

Recreational or Prescription Drugs

There is a long list of drugs, both recreation and prescription, that cause red eye. Just like alcohol, these substances cause your blood vessels to dilate.

How to Treat Red Eye

How to best treat red eye depends on the cause. Although over-the-counter eye drops or a cool compress may provide relief, it is best to seek out medical attention especially if the redness persists for more than 24 hours.

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Schedule an appointment with one of our eye doctors if you are experiencing red eye symptoms that are troubling and persistent.