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Red eye

A red eye is usually nothing to worry about and often gets better on its own. But sometimes it can be serious and you'll need to get medical help.

Common causes of a red eye

Lots of different things can cause a red eye.

Your symptoms might give you an idea of what's causing it.

Common causes of red eyes and related symptoms.
Symptoms Possible cause
Bright red area in the white of your eye Burst blood vessel
Gritty or burning feeling, sticky eyes Conjunctivitis
Sore, blurry or watery eyes Dry eyes
Itchy, sore or red eyelids Blepharitis
Feels like there's something in your eye Ingrowing eyelash
Swollen, drooping or twitching eyelid, or a lump on your eyelid Eyelid problems

What to do if you have a red eye

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

Until it has got better:

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

A pharmacist can help if you have a red eye

You can ask a pharmacist if:

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

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • you have a red eye for more than a few days
  • your child is under 2 years old and has a red eye

If your GP cannot find what's causing your red eye, they may refer you to an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) for tests.

Information:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: how to contact a GP

It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Find out about using the NHS during COVID-19

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 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

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E 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
  • 1 pupil is bigger than the other
  • something is stuck in your eye (like a piece of glass or grit)

Page last reviewed: 21 March 2022
Next review due: 21 March 2025