What are the Most Common Red Eye Causes?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 March 2019
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The most common red eye causes are frequent use of eye drops, the use of contact lenses, bacteria infections, injury, or certain types of glaucoma. Most causes are treatable and often curable. Any irritant can potentially cause red eye since the eyeball is made from very fragile and sensitive tissues.

Contact lens wearers often experience chronic or long-term red eye. This is one of the most frequently reported red eye causes, as there are millions of contact wearers. Irritation can occur when not enough oxygen gets to the eye, or when contacts are not replaced often enough and protein deposits build up. Lenses should be removed and cleaned every night before bed, sometimes sooner, to prevent serious irritation and sometimes deformation of the eye itself. Those who experience constant redness should consider using eyeglasses as an alternative.

Dry eye, or lack of adequate tear production, is another of the most common red eye causes. Tears help to protect the eye from irritation and bacteria. When production is hindered due to a medical condition or external force, such as contact lens wearing, the eye becomes more susceptible to outside irritation, as well as to extreme dryness and pain caused from everyday blinking and movement. Chronic dry eye can be treated with prescription medication.


Conjunctivitis is a term used to describe one of the most frequently reported red eye causes. It refers to an infection of the eye which can be caused by bacteria, allergens, toxins, or viruses. Symptoms include redness, soreness, and sometimes a yellow secretion or pus draining from the tear ducts. Treatments may vary based on the cause, but generally include medicated eye drops.

Injury to the eye is another one of the most common red eye causes, and can include anything from dust particles landing on the surface of the eyeball to more severe injuries like being hit in the eye or having something puncture through the eye. Minor issues generally heal themselves given enough time, while more serious injuries my require hospitalization and even surgery.

In some cases, red eye will heal on its own, but persistent cases which do not clear up within a day or two should be evaluated by a health care professional. An eye doctor or family physician will be able to determine the cause of eye redness and provide adequate treatment. Most of the time, proper treatment brings relief in a matter of days or even hours.



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