Skip to main content
Home » What’s New » Red Eyes and What Causes Them

Red Eyes and What Causes Them

eye vision window to the soul Albuquerque, NM 640×350 1

Red eyes are an incredibly common eye condition that can happen for many reasons. It can be very uncomfortable and the bloodshot look can be alarming. But how do you know what is causing your red eyes, and when is it an emergency worth seeing the doctor about?

Are There Tests to Diagnose the Cause of Red Eye?

Lots of things may lead to red eyes. Some of the most common underlying causes are:

  • Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)
  • Burst blood vessel (hyphema)
  • Dry eye syndrome
  • Allergic reaction
  • Side effects from medications

At Eyes of New Mexico Family Optometry and Contact Lenses we evaluate the most likely causes of your red eyes based on accompanying symptoms such as dry, itchy, gritty-feeling eyes or discharge, and then test for those conditions. Some of the most common tests include:

Cell cultures-  If you’re experiencing itchiness and discharge, our eye doctors may swab cells from your eyelid to determine if you have pink eye, and if it’s viral or bacterial.

Schirmer test- This can be done to see if your eyes are producing enough tears. If not, dry eye syndrome may be the cause of your red eyes This test involves placing a portion of a strip of paper in the lower eyelid and determining how much of the paper is moist.

Gonioscopy test- This helps detect narrow-angle glaucoma by observing the eye’s drainage system. An ultrasound may also be performed.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

In many cases, red eyes will clear upon their own with just a little extra care. However, it’s important to notice when it’s not clearing up, and when you may need to seek additional help. Be sure to contact our Albuquerque eye doctor if:

  • You experience tenderness or pain in your eye.
  • Your eyes feel especially sensitive to light.
  • You notice mucus coming from the eye or crusting along the lashes.
  • Your red eyes are accompanied by a fever

Want to learn more about red eyes and how they’re diagnosed and treated? Contact our Albuquerque eye doctors at Eyes of New Mexico Family Optometry and Contact Lenses today!


Can red eyes be a sign of dehydration?

Yes. Each time you blink, your eyes are coated in a tear film that is meant to keep them well hydrated. An important part of this tear film being able to keep the eyes hydrated is the water or “aqueous” layer of the tear. If you’re dehydrated, there won’t be enough water in your tears, leaving your eyes feeling itchy, red and dry.

Is pink eye contagious?

There are two main types of pink eye: bacterial and viral. Both of these types of pink eye are highly contagious for about two weeks from the time a person begins showing symptoms. It can be passed on through common close contact such as handshakes, kisses and hugs, as well as sneezing and coughing.