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What Causes Bloodshot Eyes?

Bloodshot eyes are not an attractive condition to suffer from. This redness is the result of blood vessels close to the surface of the eye becoming dilated and enlarged. There are many reasons for this to occur, some of which are relatively harmless and some that may be a cause for concern. While the condition isn’t always painful, eyes that are red and irritated definitely do not give the appearance of good health and vitality.

One of the most common causes of bloodshot eyes is a condition known as conjunctivitis, or pink eye. Pinkeye occurs when the protective layer that covers the eye becomes inflamed. This inflammation can be caused by something as simple as a cold or as serious as a bacterial infection or exposure to a toxic substance.

People whose eyes tend to be dry often find themselves suffering from red and bloodshot eyes. Eyes require moisture in order to be healthy and look their best, and when this moisture is not available, the blood vessels on the eye’s surface become inflamed and red.

A condition known as blepharitis also results in bloodshot eyes, but is accompanied by itching along the eyelid, soreness, and a crusty or greasy discharge. Blepharitis is the result of a skin infection in the follicles of the eyelid, and must be treated by an eye care professional.

Red and bloodshot eyes may also be caused by a condition known as subconjunctival hemorrhage, or more simply put, a burst blood vessel. When the vessel bursts, the blood leaks under the clear coating of the eye and causes the entire eye to appear bloodshot. These vessels may break for many reasons from a hard sneeze, to vomiting or high blood pressure.

In some people, bloodshot eyes can be the result of contact lens wear. The lenses sometimes cause the eye to become dry, which leads to redness and irritation. In those cases, use of a special moisturizing drop for contact lens wearers can bring relief. In an unlucky few, the eyes are extremely sensitive to any foreign object and the redness will appear whenever contact lenses are worn.

Injury is another common cause of bloodshot eyes. When any type of injury to the eye occurs, the body attempts to heal itself by bringing cells to the injured area causing the eye to appear red and irritated.

Surprisingly, overuse of eye drops designed to remove redness from the eye can actually cause the reverse effect. If the drops are used too often, the vessels in the eye sometimes dilate, resulting in eyes that are even more bloodshot than they were before the medication was used.

There are many reasons for eyes to become bloodshot, from conditions that are virtually harmless, to those that require medical attention in order to heal. Bloodshot eyes that don’t resolve within one or two days, or are accompanied by pain, drainage or itching should always be treated promptly by an eye care professional.

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