Red/bloodshot eye

​General information

Redness in the eye may be caused by dryness, lack of sleep, long periods of reading, computer work or alcohol.

It may be caused by viral or bacterial conjunctivitis, a cut from a foreign object, an allergy, chemical irritation or UV light. The symptoms of an infection often include stinging, discharge, itching, tearing, and a sensation of a foreign body in the eye.

Subconjunctival haemorrhage means bleeding underneath the conjunctiva which covers the white of the eye (sclera). The entire white of the eye or part of it is very red. It may also feel like there is a foreign body in the eye, although there should be no actual pain. A subconjunctival haemorrhage can occur spontaneously or as a result of rubbing, injury or straining.

Sometimes a red or bloody eye can be caused by a trauma to the eye, in which case the injury may be deeper.

A sudden increase in intraocular pressure can cause pain and redness.

The redness of an eye may also be a result of a disease affecting the sclera or cornea or some other infection. This may cause impaired vision and sensitivity to light.

Self-care

When eye irritation is clearly caused by external irritation (computer work, lack of sleep, alcohol), the redness can be reduced by anti-redness eyedrops available in pharmacies without a prescription. Read the instructions carefully.

For dry eyes, try products that are specifically for dry eyes, and for allergic eye reactions, you can use over-the-counter antihistamines. The pharmacy staff will help you choose the right product.

A painless subconjunctival haemorrhage that is not caused by a trauma or injury should resolve of its own accord in a couple of weeks.

When should you seek medical advice?

Seek medical advice if

  • the redness does not resolve on its own despite self-care .
  • you suspect a bacterial infection.

If the redness is linked with an injury, if your eyesight is impaired or you have pain in the eye, seek medical advice immediately. Urgent care is also necessary if there is a piece of metal or a corrosive substance in the eye.

This Self-care instruction has been produced in collaboration with Duodecim Terveyskirjasto

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Updated  8.6.2020