What Are the Common Causes of Red Puffy Eyes?

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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2018
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Lack of sleep and allergies are two of the most common causes of red puffy eyes. Both eyes are usually affected in these situations. Most types of eye infections can also cause redness and swelling. Trauma can also cause red puffy eyes. Contact lenses may also cause dryness and irritation, which will often result in puffy, red eyes.

The average adult typically needs six to ten hours of sleep each night. Sleep not only allows time for the body to rest, but it also allows the eyes to rest. When the eyes are closed, the eyelids help protect the eyeballs and help keep them moist. People who do not get enough sleep may find their eyes are red and puffy.

Allergies commonly cause red puffy eyes, along with itching and general discomfort. This often occurs during allergy season, which can occur in the spring, summer, or autumn. Pollen is the most common culprit for allergies, but things like dust and pet dander can also cause allergy symptoms. An oral antihistamine and eye drops will usually help minimize these symptoms.

Eye infections are other, more serious, causes for red puffy eyes. Discharge and pain are other eye infection symptoms. While these usually start out in only one eye, it is not uncommon for them to spread to both eyes.


Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, and blephartis are two of the most common types of eye infections. Bacteria and viruses are usually responsible for these infections. An oral antibiotic or antiviral drug is usually necessary to cure eye infections. Special eye drops may also be used.

Trauma or irritation of the eye can also cause red puffy eyes. A corneal abrasion, or scratched cornea, is one of the most common types of eye irritation. This can occur when a foreign body, like a speck of dust or an eyelash gets onto the surface of the eyeball. Chemicals, like chlorine from a swimming pool, can also cause irritation and inflammation of the eyes.

Removing the offending foreign body will usually help relieve red puffy eyes and prevent long-term damage. Most of the time, tiny foreign objects and chemicals can be washed out of the eye with a saline solution. Rarely, surgery may be required to remove embedded objects, like shrapnel.

Contacts can also irritate the eyes, causing red puffy eyes. Dust or other tiny particles can become trapped under the surface of a contact and damage the surface of the eyeball, for instance. Contact lenses may also hold bacteria to the surface of the eye, which can increase the risk of an eye infection. Contacts should be removed and cleaned regularly to prevent this.



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