Red eye

A red eye is usually nothing to worry about and often gets better on its own.

Sometimes it can be more serious and you'll need to get medical help.

Causes of a red eye

Lots of different things can cause a red eye.

Common causes and their symptoms include:

  • burst blood vessel – a bright red area in the white of your eye
  • conjunctivitis – gritty or burning feeling, sticky eyes
  • dry eyes – sore, blurry or watery eyes
  • blepharitis – itchy, sore or red eyelids
  • ingrowing eyelashes – feels like there's something in your eye
  • eyelid problems – swollen, drooping or twitching eyelid, or a lump on your eyelid

Self care for a red eye

If your eye does not hurt and your sight is not affected, it's likely nothing serious. It may get better on its own in a few days.

Until it is better:

  • try not to touch or rub your eye
  • do not wear contact lenses

When to see your pharmacist

You can ask your pharmacist if:

  • there's anything you can do to treat your eye yourself
  • you can buy anything to help, such as cleaning solutions or eyedrops
  • you need to see a GP

Non-urgent advice: Contact your GP if:

  • your eye is not any better after a few days
  • your child is under 2 years old and has a red eye

If your GP cannot find the cause of your red eye, they may refer you to an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) for tests.

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment if:

  • your baby has red eyes and they're less than 28 days old
  • your eye is painful and red
  • you have a red eye and wear contact lenses. You could have an eye infection

Immediate action required: Call 999 or 112 or go to your nearest ED if you have a red eye and:

  • you have any changes to your sight, like wavy lines, flashing or loss of vision
  • it hurts to look at light
  • you have a severe headache and feel sick
  • your eye or eyes are very dark red
  • you have injured or pierced your eye
  • something is stuck in your eye (like a piece of glass or grit)

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 15 April 2021
Next review due: 15 April 2024