Redness of the eye

Redness of the eye

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​Redness of the eye is a common symptom which may have a number of causes. Red eyes occur when blood vessels become enlarged or there is bleeding. When the cause of redness is clear and unambiguous, the condition can be treated at home.

Redness of the eye is most often caused by dryness of the eyes, lack of sleep, long periods of work at close proximity, e.g.reading and computer work, or alcohol. It may be caused by viral or bacterial conjunctivitis, a foreign body, an allergy, chemical irritation or UV light.

A different kind of redness is associated with subconjunctival haemorrhage, also called suggillation.  Subconjunctival haemorrhage is bleeding from a small blood vessel over the whites of the eye (also called sclera). The entire white of the eye or part of it is very red.  A subconjunctival haemorrhage can occur spontaneously or as a result of rubbing, straining or minor injury. A severe blow on the eye may cause more serious damage to the eye in addition to subconjunctival haemorrhage. The redness of an eye may also be a sign of an incipient eye condition.

Symptoms

​The symptoms of an infection often include stinging, discharge, itching, tearing, and a sensation of a foreign body in the eye. Suggillation may also feel like there is a foreign body in the eye, although there should be no actual pain. If the redness of an eye is the result of a disease, impaired vision or sensitivity to light may occur and a sudden increase in intraocular pressure due to injury or disease can cause not only redness but often also more severe pain.

Self-care

​If the redness is caused by external irritation, such as computer work, lack of sleep, or drinking alcohol, the redness can be reduced by anti-redness eyedrops available in pharmacies without a prescription. Read the instructions carefully. Dry eyes can be treated with products that are specifically for dry eyes. Also allergic eye reactions can be treated with over-the-counter antihistamine drops. Pharmacy staff will help you select the right product, if necessary. Suggillation, which is not caused by a trauma or injury, should heal on its own in a couple of weeks.​

When should you seek medical advice?

​You should seek medical advice, if

  • ​your eyesight is impaired or you have pain in the eye.
  • the symptoms indicate a viral or bacterial conjunctivitis.
  • you have a foreign body or corrosive substance in the eye.
  • ​redness caused by lack or sleep, irritation or drinking alcohol does not heal by self-care. 

More information

The producers of the instruction

​​​​​Emergency care professionals have produced the instruction in collaboration with Terveyskirjasto.​

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Updated  22.4.2021