Should I See My Eye Doctor if My Eye is Red?

Most people get red or bloodshot eyes from time to time, which is usually not a cause for concern. Eye redness typically resolves on its own after a few days.

But sometimes, it can linger and be an indication of a serious condition that needs treatment. Keep reading to learn more about red eyes, common causes of bloodshot eyes, and other symptoms to watch out for so you’ll know when to see an eye doctor.

What are Red Eyes?

Red eyes occur when the tiny blood vessels in the sclera, which is the white of your eye, expand. This process causes the sclera to turn red.

The redness may come on gradually or suddenly and can appear in one or both eyes.

What Are the Causes of Red Eyes?

There are several causes of red eyes. Common causes include:

Dry Eyes

Dry eyes happen when your eyes don’t produce enough tears or make poor-quality tears. Symptoms of dry eyes include redness, blurred or double vision, light sensitivity, and a burning or stinging sensation.  Mild cases can be managed with over-the-counter natural tears while more severe cases may need additional treatment.


Environmental or seasonal allergies caused by pollen, smoke, pet dander, and other allergens can cause red, irritated eyes. When your immune system encounters an allergen, it releases histamine to fight off the perceived threat.

Histamine causes the blood vessels in your eyes to swell, making them red. Bloodshot eyes from allergies are usually accompanied by other symptoms like watery eyes, itching, stuffy nose, and sneezing.  There are several over the counter drops, such as Zaditor or Alaway, that may help relieve eye allergy symptoms, but you may need a stronger prescription drop or your doctor may recommend taking an oral antihistamine.

Digital Eye Strain

Do you spend a lot of time in front of your laptop, tablet, computer, phone, or TV? You may develop digital eye strain because of excessive screen time.

Digital screens can cause eye strain due to their glare. Signs of digital eye strain include redness, eye fatigue, blurred vision, double vision, and headaches.

Additionally, you tend to blink less when using digital screens. On average, people blink approximately 15 times per minute.

Your blink rate reduces by half when staring at digital screens. Blinking less can dry out your eyes, sometimes causing redness.

One strategy to help alleviate digital eye strain is to follow the 20-20-20 rule.  Every 20 minutes of screen use, take a 20 second break, and look at something 20 feet away.  Blink often to help replenish your eye’s own tears.


Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is inflammation of the conjunctiva, which causes the sclera to appear pink or red. The conjunctiva is the mucus lining that covers the sclera and the inside of the eyelids.

Conjunctivitis can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or environmental irritants. Pink eye is very contagious when caused by a bacterial or viral infection.

So, if you suspect you have pink eye, you should avoid eye rubbing, wash your hands frequently, and visit your eye doctor.


Glaucoma occurs when fluid accumulates in the front part of your eye. Fluid buildup can increase your eye pressure and damage the optic nerve.

Glaucoma is a leading cause of permanent blindness. The most common type of glaucoma is painless, with no symptoms in the early stages.

The rare form, called angle-closure or closed-angle glaucoma, causes a rapid increase in your eye pressure. Symptoms of closed-angle glaucoma appear suddenly and may include eye redness.

Other symptoms are:

  • Blurred vision
  • Seeing halos
  • Severe headache
  • Intense eye pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Vision loss

Angle-closure glaucoma is a medical emergency because it can cause permanent vision loss and blindness very quickly.

When Should I See an Eye Doctor if My Eyes Are Red?

You should see your eye doctor at VisionPoint Eye Center without delay if you have red or pink eyes along with these symptoms:

  • Swelling
  • Eye pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abrupt changes in vision
  • Sudden halos around lights
  • Unusual or excessive discharge
  • Redness that lasts more than a few days

Your eye doctor can find the cause of your symptoms and create a treatment plan to help improve them.

Are you experiencing persistent red eyes? Schedule an appointment at VisionPoint Eye Center in Bloomington, IL, today!

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