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Why do your Eyes Turn Red?

Updated on April 11, 2013


The eye is very precise and complex organ. It consists of the eyeball and the front cover called eyelid. Between the eyelid and the eyeball lies conjunctiva. Conjunctiva is a mucous membrane full of small blood vessels necessary to provide the eye with nutrients and oxygen. These blood vessels give the eye its healthy reddish color. Sometimes, certain factors may cause these blood vessels to dilate, allowing more blood flow to the eye, which is how you get red eyes.

These factors include:

  • Contact with outside impurities

The eye is very sensitive to touch, and easy to contaminate microbes, tiny particles of dust, and other impurities. Sclera, or the white of the eye, is the outer layer of the eye. It acts as a shield against foreign content. When impurities enter the eye, blood vessels in conjunctiva enlarge to allow more blood flow carrying anti-bodies to the eye to counter microbes.

  • Contact with chemicals

Like chlorine in the swimming pools. You probably noticed how your eyes turn red after swimming for a long time without goggles. Some cosmetics may also cause red eyes, especially if not washed out before sleeping. Harmful chemicals, like acid, cause eye burning, which requires first aid and urgent medical treatment.

  • Seasonal Allergy

Eye's reaction to allergens like pollen and dust also causes red eyes. It happens when pollen or dust in the air enters the eye membrane of someone who is allergic to pollen or dust.This allergic reaction leads to excessive production of tears, irritation and as result your eye color turns red.

  • Intraocular pressure

Intraocular pressure refers to fluid pressure in the eye. Increased pressure in the eye may damage the optic nerve and cause serious diseases like Glaucoma. Glaucoma causes eye redness and may also lead to the loss of sight.

  • Eye injury

When tinny hard object enters the eye, it may cause serious injury, and may leave a prominent red spot in the injured area. It can be deep puncture or small scratch, either ways you should see the doctor to prevent permanent red spots.

  • Hyposphagma or Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

Hyposphagma is the bleeding underneath conjunctiva. It occurs when small and fragile blood vessels underneath conjunctiva burst because they can’t hold the normal blood pressure, or because of other factors like sneezing, choking, vomiting...etc. This condition is not alarming and doesn't last for long, but does cause an unpleasant redness of the eye.

  • Dry Eyes

Tears clean your eyes and make them free of dust, protect them from infection, and also help in stabilizing vision. That is why tears are so important for healthy eyes. The decreased tear secretion in the eye triggers the immune system to send anti-infection bodies to the eye through dilated blood vessels in conjunctiva in an attempt to compensate the malfunction of lacrimal gland, turning your eye color into red.

  • Sleep deprivation

Sleeping problems are mostly caused by stress, disturbance, drugs…etc. If you don't sleep enough, then you are likely to get red eyes. Your eyelids need to rest closed for at least 5 hours a day to prevent excess fluid (edema) and to maintain normal blood pressure in the eye.

  • Too long reading or sitting in front of the TV or computer screen

And other activities that make you blink less, which in return dries your eye.

  • Vitamin deficiency

Especially vitamin A, B-2, B-12 and B-6. Vitamin deficiency may cause dry eyes.

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