man using eye drops to get rid of his red eyes

How to get rid of red eyes

Ever taken a red eye? The red eye flight is an overnight flight that lands at its destination in the early morning, and is nicknamed as such due to the fact that passengers tend to have red eyes once they arrive. But taking a night flight is not the only reason you could have red eyes, there are actually lots of reasons.

Here, we’ll explore some of the causes of red eyes, as well as how to identify them, treat them, and when you should see a doctor.

What is red eye?

Red eyes occur when irritation or infection causes the tiny blood vessels in your eyes to expand. It can happen in one or both eyes, and is normally caused by one or more of the following conditions:

Common causes of red eyes

  • Swimming: it’s common for the chlorine found in swimming pools to cause red eye

  • Smoking: the smoke from smoking can release toxins into the eye, which can cause irritation

  • Sleep deprivation: not getting enough sleep can cause your eyes to become dry and red

  • Alcohol: drinking alcohol can cause dehydration, which can your eyes to become dry and red

  • Pregnancy: the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can cause the decreased production of tears, which can cause the eyes to dry out and cause redness

  • Colds and allergies

  • Conjunctivitis: this infection is also known as ‘pink eye’ and affects the clear layer that protects the eye

  • Contact lenses and eye drops: if not cleaned properly, these can cause dry eyes and make them red

When you should visit a doctor

If you have red eyes, the good news is that it’s not usually serious. However, if you experience any of the following, we recommend talking to your GP:

  • Loss of vision
  • A recent head and/or eye injury
  • Eye surgery in the last 12 months
  • Chronic pain
  • Yellow or green crust or mucus around the eyes

Home remedies to get rid of red eyes

If the cause for your red eyes is not serious, there are a range of home remedies you could try to get them back to normal:1
  • A cold compress: to make a cold compress, simply soak a cloth in ice water before twisting off any excess liquid. Close your eyes and press the cold compress over your closed eyes for five to 10 minutes, a few times a day
  • A warm compress: simply soak a cloth in warm water (make sure it’s not too hot) and place over closed eyes for a few minutes. This may stimulate the production of tears, which will lubricate your eyes and could get rid of the redness
  • Eye drops: as red eyes are often caused by dryness, eye drops are often the key for treating them at home. Insert your eye drops every hour for the first six hours, then six times per day for the rest of the week
For more products that can help with eye health, check out our selection of eye care vitamins.

Last updated: 16 June 2020

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ConditionsEye Health