Are Your Eyes Red When You Wake Up? Here’s What Could Be Happening

Eva Hagan - Author

Feb. 2 2024, Published 4:07 p.m. ET

A man pulls down on the side of his face where his eye is red.
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If you find yourself waking up with bloodshot eyes, you aren’t the only one. There are several causes of red eyes in the morning which can range from a minor allergic reaction to a serious health issue such as high blood pressure.

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Please note that we are not medical professionals, and it is important to visit a doctor for proper treatment and medical advice. In any case, here are some ideas of why you could be waking up with bloodshot eyes.

Woman rubs her red eyes beneath glasses.
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Why are my eyes red when I wake up?

Waking up with bloodshot eyes can be caused by several things, the most common being dryness. Dry eye disease occurs when insufficient liquid is produced to keep the eyes lubricated at night. It can result in a stinging or burning sensation in the eyes and redness.

The most common solution to dry eye disease is eyedrops; however, if your symptoms are severe, it’s a good idea to visit an optometrist, per Dr. Zargar Eyecare.

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Allergies are another common cause of red eyes. According to Dr. Ghosheh at Advanced Eye Medical, people with allergies often experience itchiness in the eyes, which causes them to rub their eyes and create redness.

Eye fatigue could be another reason your eyes look more bloodshot. Not getting enough sleep and/or looking at screens a lot could cause eye fatigue, resulting in redness, burning, and even blurriness.

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is a contagious eye infection that can cause the eyes to turn red. According to Dr. Ghosheh, if you suspect you have pink eye, you must visit the doctor for proper treatment and learn to practice good hygiene to reduce the risk of spreading it to someone else.

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A woman waking up and rubbing her face while in bed.
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Another possible cause of bloodshot eyes is an eye injury. Injuries can occur during sports, workplace hazards, or any type of accident that causes the eye to become scratched, punctured, or exposed to foreign objects or substances. According to the Cleveland Clinic, eye injuries are very serious, and if left without treatment, they could lead to permanent eye problems, such as blindness.

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Can dehydration cause red eyes?

Dehydration is more likely to cause sunken and dark eyes than redness. However, severe dehydration can lead to dry eye disease because there is not enough fluid in the body to produce tears to lubricate the eyes, which can lead to redness. So, technically, dehydration can lead to red eyes, per Medical News Today.

A woman with a bun in her hair holds her eye open while using eye drops.
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Can high blood pressure cause red eyes?

High blood pressure can be an underlying cause of red eyes. If you have high blood pressure, your blood vessels in the retina could become damaged, leading to burst blood vessels or blood leakage and, thus, red eyes. For those with hypertension and diabetes, their blood vessels could be destroyed completely, which could lead to blindness, per Eye Associates of Monmouth.

So, although having bloodshot eyes is not necessarily a sign that you have high blood pressure or diabetes, it's a possible symptom of the condition, and it's a good idea to visit a doctor to receive proper care and diagnosis.

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