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
Emergency 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