Redness around the eyes

Ever wake up with redness around your eyes? Do you have a rash around your eyes? Eyelid swelling or drainage? 

Redness on the skin around the eyes can be from a multitude of things. Don’t panic. Here is what you need to know.

What causes eye redness?

First, get up, wash your face and assess the situation. Did you cry all night about your spilled milk? If the answer is yes, then the redness is likely from all of your crying. Grab a bag of peas and ice those eyeballs. 

Do you notice redness under your eyes? Dark circles? Are you super tired? Dark circles under your eyes can be from lack of sleep or rubbing your eyes from being tired. Rest those eyes and try some cool cucumbers to soothe those tired eyes!

When should I worry about redness around my eyes?

Redness around your eyes that seems more like a circle of redness can be a big deal. (Unless you dressed as a clown yesterday or your kid drew on his face with a marker, then disregard). Redness of the skin can be caused by infection. Cellulitis is an infection of the skin tissue. Periorbital cellulitis is an infection that occurs around the eye, in the tissue in the eyelids and below the eye. Usually with cellulitis, the skin feels warm (or even hot!), it can be puffy and you can experience fever and pain. You will need to be seen right away for this. Cellulitis may be accompanied by swelling of the eye or eye drainage. If you are experiencing pain with just moving the eyeball, then you need to be evaluated ASAP! Send us a photo and we can help you with your symptoms.

Redness around the eye from an eczema rash 

A rash around the eye can also be a cause of redness. Common rashes can be caused by eczema, which is dry, scaly skin that can occur on sensitive skin around the eye. Eczema can be caused by inflammation that usually occurs when something is irritating the skin (rubbing your eyes or an irritating substance or allergy). The skin around the eyes is delicate and more sensitive than other areas of the body and can become red or irritated quickly. 

Skin irritation around the eyes is common in babies and kids who rub their eyes when they are tired. I’m sure tired parents rub their eyes too, but likely not enough to cause a rash! Dry scaly skin around the eyes from eczema is usually easy to remedy. First, try not to rub and itch the eyes. You can also try applying a thin layer of Aquaphor to your itchy dry patches. Try not to glob it on too thick or you will get ointment in your eyes. A thin layer goes a long way. Following our eczema guidelines will help too, especially avoiding products that contain fragrance. 

Eye redness from an infection

Redness around the eye that is accompanied by goopy eyes can be due to germs in the eye. If you are noticing yellow goop, or your eyes are sticking together and you feel like they are about to be swollen shut (ew gross), this could be conjunctivitis. 

Now, conjunctivitis can be caused by a virus or bacteria. If it’s a virus, it will typically move from one eye to the next over about a day and then start to clear up. Usually, it’s bright red and runny. It clears as quickly as it starts. Normally if you wait 24 hours you can save yourself a visit to the office. 

If you find that you have nice pink eyes 👁, your eyelids are swollen, you have yellow drainage from one or both eyes 👀 and it lasts more than 24 hours with no end in sight, this is probably bacterial conjunctivitis and you will need antibiotic drops or ointment. Some people call this “pink eye.” 

Pink eye is easily treated with a prescription. Call for an appointment and get your infection taken care of if you think you could have bacterial conjunctivitis. This is the type of illness that can easily be treated over a video visit with a provider. If you have access to an affordable telemedicine service through your insurance or primary care provider, definitely consider it. If you have pain with these symptoms you should be seen right away as eye pain is not typical with straightforward bacterial conjunctivitis. 

Eye redness from an allergy

You can also get redness around the eye, symptoms of eye discharge and sticking together just like an infection, but instead it could be caused by an allergy. Seasonal allergies can often cause red, itchy eyes. We also call this conjunctivitis (just like the paragraph above), but this time it’s “allergic conjunctivitis”. It is caused by airborne allergens (usually the invisible kind) contacting the eyeball and causing your eyeballs to react. Allergic conjunctivitis usually consists of redness in both eyes, watery discharge, and itching (lots of itching!). Itchiness usually means it’s an allergy problem and not an infection. 

Start by avoiding rubbing the eyes, washing your eyes out with clean lukewarm water, using cool compresses, and trying artificial tears (aka visine). Try to avoid whatever you think you might be allergic to. If that doesn’t help, oftentimes trying some over the counter antihistamine remedies such as diphenhydramine (benadryl) or loratadine can help if you have allergy symptoms beyond just the eyes. You can also find over the counter antihistamine eye drops, specifically for itchy eyes, such as ketotifen. Remember to check with your doctor and pharmacist to ensure safety for any long term use! 

Eye redness prevention

Eye redness can be serious so any time you have redness accompanied by pain, fever or warmth, or it seems like you have a circle of redness, it’s important to get checked right away!

One of the biggest ways to keep your eyes healthy and germ-free is by good hand washing! 🖐🏻 Good hand washing is a great way to prevent the spread of germs. It can keep you from getting eye infections as well as introducing other germs into your body that can give you cold symptoms or the flu. Ask a nurse first, if you have concerns or want us to take a look!

Kim Liner, PNP

Nurse-1-1 Chief NP

Nurse-1-1 Health Center is written by nurses in a straight to the point type of way to provide basic health information. We get a lot of people like you searching online for answers to health concerns or looking for a hotline to ask a nurse a few questions. Questions like how to prevent concussions in kids?  What should parents know about screen time for toddlers? What’s the best way to approach shingles prevention in the elderly? Well we can help. We put some info here for you to find while searching through all that other dry, scary medical information online. Stop that. Read our posts, or chat with us. This is not medical advice or a replacement for medical care, but see what we have to say with our free health information, and hopefully it will stop you from scaring yourself any more than you already have. We can help.