Why Eyes Turn Red or Pink?

This is a very commonly seen symptom. Before we understand why this happens, we need to have some insight into the structure of the eye.

How Does a Normal Eye Become Pink or Red?

Our eyes are like two small balls, fit into the skull sockets. They have many different layers over them, which cover and protect the eye.

The outermost layer covering the eye is called the conjunctiva. This layer is transparent. It has no color. We can feel this layer over our eye. The layer is somewhat slimy in texture and continuously secreting a oily secretion, essential to let the eye be lubricated throughout the day.

Lubricant protects the eye from dryness, traps dust particles and various germs trying to enter the eye. The slimy secretion, in fact, has a few surface antibodies, ready to act and fight upon invaders trying to enter and affect our eyes.

The conjunctiva also has very minute blood vessels in it. These vessel nourish the  conjunctiva and help in secreting various secretions required by the eye.

Now, when an invader enters the eye, be it a virus or some dust particle or an allergen, the blood vessels in the conjunctiva widens or broadens to let some fluid and certain protective fighter cells (WBCs) leak out from it. This is to help the eye fight out the invader.

This broadening of the blood vessel (medically called vasodilatation) makes the conjunctiva look red or pink.

Common Causes And Symptoms


Dust, pollens and many other allergens moving freely in the air may irritate your eyes and make it red. Some people may get red eyes when the season changes.

The eyes are pink to red in color. It is usually not painful. It may start watering and itch.

Viral infections

Red eyes are usually accompanied with sneezing or a running nose. Eyes may itch and you may notice watering from them.

Bacterial Infections

Eyes are red and painful. There may be some white to yellow colored discharge from them. This may be found at the corners of the eye after you get up from sleep.

Attend to the problem immediately. A delay in treatment may damage your eyes for ever. The infection is quick to spread into the inner layers of the eye.

Eye Strain

Doing eye work for long periods without a break can may your eye look red. If you work on the computer for long hours, note that your eyes are red and dry.

Frequent rest periods are a must for computer users. Read more on computer related eye problems.


High blood pressure may reflect in your eyes. It may make your eyes get red and tired. Usually, headache accompanies these eye symptoms.

After Swimming in a Pool

Pools contain certain disinfectant in their waters. Most often used among them is chlorine. Chlorine is an irritant for our eyes.

So, if you are swimming in a pool and your eye get in touch with waters there, you eyes may turn red and itchy.

To avoid this, wear glasses when you swim.

Winter Dryness

The cold dry winter air may irritate your eyes and make them red. This dryness may also affect the nasal and other respiratory mucosa, giving you a dry cough.

What to Do When You Have a Red Eye?

You need to see an ophthalmologist, to ascertain the exact cause of redness in your eye. As you may read above, there are more than one cause of having this symptom. So, a doctor needs to peep into your eye and let you know the exact cause of having a red eye.

If it is an allergy that’s giving you the problem, the best management is to avoid the allergen as far as possible. You may do this by wearing protective glasses, and washing off the allergen frequently from your eyes.

In severe cases, when you have a running nose too, or when the eye is too red or painful, anti allergic medications need to be given.

If the redness is due to a viral cause, eye rest is recommended. General eye care is usually enough to help th eye recover.

When it’s a bacteria affecting your eyes, antibiotics should be instilled into the eye.

Blood pressure checks are required when red eyes are due to elevated B.P. If you are a smoker, quit smoking at the earliest to save the eye. Obesity is another factor which needs to be checked if B.P. is high. Reducing weight causes a reduction in the blood pressure too. Also, this cumulative effect reduce your chances of getting any heart problems.

General Care for Red Eyes

  • Wash your eyes with cool water, twice or thrice a day. This is especially recommended when you come home from your workplace or outdoors.
  • You may keep a clean towel soaked in cold water over your eyes. This cools and soothes the red eye, relieving its discomfort.
  • Avoid dust. If you are to go into a dusty surrounding, wear glasses to protect your eyes.
  • Avoid sun, when it’s too bright.
  • Take care that your spectacles or contact lens are clean and bacteria free. They should be well sanitized for your eye protection.
  • Control your B.P. Here, it’s important to point out that you need to quit smoking if you smoke.
  • While swimming, you may wear glasses to protect your eyes. Do not let water enter and irritate your eyes.

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