What Causes Bloodshot Eyes? Understanding the Causes and Treatments

Published on
March 20, 2023

Bloodshot eyes can be alarming, but they are not always a cause for concern. In this blog, we will discuss the common causes of bloodshot eyes, how to treat them, and when to seek medical attention. We will also provide some helpful tips for preventing bloodshot eyes in the future.

Understanding Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

A subconjunctival hemorrhage is one of the most common causes of bloodshot eyes. It occurs when a blood vessel under the conjunctiva (the clear membrane that covers the white part of the eye) bursts, causing blood to pool under the tissue. This can result in a bright red or dark patch on the white part of the eye.

Subconjunctival hemorrhages are typically not serious and do not require treatment. In most cases, they will clear up on their own within a few weeks. However, if you experience any pain or vision changes, it is important to see our eye doctor in Olympia.

Causes of Bloodshot Eyes

Rubbing or Poking the Eye

Rubbing or poking your eye can cause blood vessels on the surface of your eye to break, leading to bloodshot eyes. While rubbing your eyes may provide temporary relief for itching or irritation, it can cause more harm than good. If you experience persistent itching or irritation, it is best to consult our eye doctor to identify the underlying cause and provide the appropriate treatment.

Increased Pressure in the Body Cavity

Increased pressure in the body cavity, such as during coughing, sneezing, or lifting heavy objects, can cause blood vessels to break in the eyes, leading to bloodshot eyes. If you have a cough or cold, it is important to treat it promptly to avoid complications such as a subconjunctival hemorrhage.

Underlying Health Conditions

Bloodshot eyes can also be a sign of underlying health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. If you experience frequent bloodshot eyes, it is important to consult our eye doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

Additional Reasons Why Your Eyes May be Bloodshot 

  • Eye fatigue or strain: Prolonged use of digital devices, reading or driving can lead to eye fatigue and redness.
  • Allergies: Allergic reactions to pollen, dust, pet dander or other allergens can cause red, itchy, and swollen eyes.
  • Dry eyes: Insufficient tears or poor quality tears can cause dry, itchy, and red eyes.
  • Infections: Viral or bacterial infections such as conjunctivitis (pink eye) can cause redness, swelling and discharge in the eyes.
  • Contact lenses: Wearing contact lenses for too long, using them improperly or wearing lenses that don't fit properly can cause redness and irritation.
  • Environmental irritants: Exposure to smoke, fumes, wind, or other environmental irritants can cause redness and irritation in the eyes.
  • Eye injuries: Any injury to the eye, including scratches or foreign bodies, can cause redness, pain, and inflammation.
  • Alcohol and drug use: Consuming alcohol or drugs, including marijuana, can cause bloodshot eyes due to the dilation of blood vessels.
  • Fatigue or lack of sleep: Lack of sleep or feeling fatigued can cause blood vessels in the eyes to dilate, causing redness.

Treatment for Bloodshot Eyes

In most cases, bloodshot eyes do not require treatment and will clear up on their own within a few weeks. However, there are some things you can do to help alleviate discomfort and speed up the healing process:

  • Apply a cold compress to the affected eye for 10-15 minutes at a time, several times a day.
  • Avoid rubbing or touching your eyes.
  • Use lubricating eye drops to soothe dryness and irritation.

When to Visit Our Optometrist

In most cases, bloodshot eyes are not serious and will clear up on their own. However, there are some situations where you should visit our eye doctor:

  • If you experience pain or vision changes.
  • If you have frequent bloodshot eyes.
  • If you have a history of high blood pressure or diabetes.
  • If you have been diagnosed with an eye condition that affects blood vessels, such as uveitis.
  • If your bloodshot eyes are a result of eye strain such as after using a computer for extended periods. 
  • If you have bloodshot eyes due to overuse of contact lenses you should see our optometrist to discuss the dangers of overusing contact lenses. 

Preventing Bloodshot Eyes

There are some steps you can take to help prevent bloodshot eyes:

  • Avoid rubbing or touching your eyes.
  • Practice good eye hygiene, such as washing your hands regularly and avoiding sharing eye makeup or contact lenses.
  • Protect your eyes from injury by wearing safety glasses when working with tools or playing sports.
  • Manage underlying health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

Visit us at American Family Vision Clinic for Eye Emergencies

If you are experiencing frequent bloodshot eyes, it is important to consult our eye doctor to identify any underlying medical conditions and provide the appropriate treatment. At American Family Vision Clinic, we offer comprehensive eye exams and personalized treatment plans to help you achieve optimal eye health. Contact us today at (360) 491-2121 to schedule an appointment!

Patients with eye emergencies visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of medical and emergency eye services, such as bloodshot eyes, for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey. 


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
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