Red eyes and eyelids
Your eyes or eyelids may become red temporarily, which is usually not a cause for concern. But it can also occur due to an eye condition. Some people experience redness around or under their eyes, while others have red spots or bloodshot eyes. These are often due to swollen or dilated blood vessels.
When you have red eyes or eyelids, your eyes may itch or swell. It is less common, but they may also feel sore or painful. Rubbing your eyes can worsen your symptoms, so it’s better not to touch them. Avoid wearing contact lenses until your eyes and eyelids return to normal.
Are red eyes ever an emergency?
If you experience red eyes or eyelids without other symptoms, it’s likely that you don’t need emergency care. However, you might if you experience sudden vision loss, severe pain or a headache. If you get any chemicals in your eyes, seek immediate attention.
You may experience red eyes if you are tired or have been staring at a screen for too long. But this should last for a short time. Wearing contact lenses for longer than recommended can also cause red eyes. Other causes of temporary redness include an injury, infection, or a cold.
Below we explore common conditions that can cause red eyes or eyelids.
Allergies: Dust mites, pollen, pet dander, and cigarette smoke can irritate your eyes. Your eyes may itch or feel like they’re burning. You may also tear up. An antihistamine can prevent this reaction.
Blepharitis: Itchy, red eyelids are a sign of blepharitis. Your eyelids or lashes may stick together, look greasy, and feel sore. People often experience blepharitis in both eyes, though it may affect only one. A BlephEx™ cleansing procedure can help prevent blepharitis as it usually recurs.
Conjunctivitis: Pinkeye (conjunctivitis) causes an inflamed eyelid and conjunctiva. Your eyes may burn or feel gritty. Conjunctivitis can also cause mucous discharge, which can make your eyes sticky. You may need antibiotics to treat conjunctivitis, but it often isn’t necessary.
Corneal ulcers: Symptoms of a corneal ulcer (keratitis) include severe eye pain, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and eyelid swelling. Keratitis can occur due to a bacterial, fungal, viral or parasitic infection. Contact lenses can also cause corneal ulcers, which is why you may prefer laser eye surgery. Learn more here: Contacts or Laser Eye Surgery? How to choose.
An antibiotic, antiviral, or antifungal can treat corneal ulcers. Without treatment, keratitis can lead to vision loss.
Dry eye syndrome: If you don’t produce sufficient tears, you may develop dry eye syndrome. Your eyes may water and feel sore or sensitive to light. Dry eyes can also cause a stinging, scratchy, or burning sensation. Dry eye treatments include IPL therapy, meibomian gland expression, BlephEx™ and punctal plugs.
Glaucoma: The two main types of glaucoma are open-angle and acute angle-closure. Both cause intraocular eye pressure to rise. You may experience severe eye pain, haloes, and blurred vision. It can also affect your peripheral vision. Glaucoma treatments include eye drops, laser treatments, such as SLT and LPI, lens replacement surgery, and glaucoma surgery.
You will need to attend an initial consultation to assess your symptoms. Let us know how long you’ve had red eyes or eyelids and whether you’ve had other symptoms. Our consultant ophthalmologist will provide a physical examination and may need to swab the area. Other tests we perform will depend on the likely cause of your symptoms.
If you’ve had red eyes or eyelids temporarily, a pharmacist can recommend treatment options, such as eye drops. Visit your GP if these are ineffective. Your GP will let you know if you need a referral to an eye specialist.
To manage red, sore eyes, you might want to try:
- Artificial tears
- A cold compress
- Avoiding makeup
- Limiting screen time
- Avoiding smoke or pollen
- Wearing glasses instead of contacts
These are not to treat red eyes or eyelids but to ease uncomfortable symptoms. Above we briefly explain how we treat the common conditions that cause red eyes and eyelids.