Redness around the eyes can occur for several reasons, including skin thinning and aging. In other cases, a health issue may be responsible.

Some causes of redness in the eye area, such as shingles and cellulitis, require prompt medical attention.

Below, learn about these and other health conditions that can have this effect. We describe other symptoms to be aware of and when to contact a doctor.

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Various health issues can lead to redness around the eyes, including allergies, reactions to irritants, and infections.

Eczema

The medical name for eczema is atopic dermatitis, and this chronic skin condition can cause redness around the eyes. It is common in children, though adults can develop it.

Symptoms vary from person to person, but some of the most common include:

  • flushed skin
  • dry, itchy skin
  • swelling
  • a rash, possibly of small, raised bumps that may ooze fluid

Genetic variations, environmental factors, irritants, and allergens are the primary causes of eczema.

Currently, there is no cure. To treat eczema, a doctor may prescribe oral corticosteroids, such as prednisone (Deltasone), creams to alleviate itching and redness, or a combination of both.

Moisturizing the skin every day and applying over-the-counter topical treatments may also help ease the symptoms or prevent them from developing.

Learn more about eczema here.

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis occurs when the skin comes into contact with something that causes irritation or an allergic reaction. It can cause the skin to become flushed and itchy.

While the condition is not contagious, it can be very uncomfortable.

Contact dermatitis symptoms include:

  • redness
  • intense itchiness
  • tenderness
  • blistering
  • a rash
  • dry, cracked skin

Some irritants that may be responsible include:

  • shampoos
  • bleach
  • detergents
  • fertilizers and pesticides

Allergens that may cause contact dermatitis include:

  • jewelry
  • medications, such as antibiotic creams
  • personal care products, such as cosmetics, body washes, and deodorants

To treat contact dermatitis, a doctor may prescribe:

  • oral corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
  • steroid creams to ease the rash
  • antibiotics to fight off a bacterial infection

To help resolve the issue, a person might try using a wet compress to soothe the skin. It is also important to avoid allergens and irritants.

Learn more about eyelid dermatitis here.

Blepharitis

Blepharitis is inflammation at the base of the eyelashes. It occurs when oil glands around the eyelashes get clogged, and it can cause itchiness and redness around the eyes.

Symptoms of blepharitis include:

  • redness
  • irritation
  • sensitivity to light
  • watery eyes
  • dandruff-like scales on the eyelashes
  • the eyelids sticking together, especially in the mornings
  • a burning sensation
  • itchiness

Healthcare professionals believe that bacteria in the skin may be responsible for blepharitis.

Specific conditions may lead to it. These include:

  • infections
  • rosacea
  • allergic reactions

Usually, home care techniques can help, such as washing the eyelids and applying a warm compress to loosen any crusting.

If this is ineffective, a doctor may prescribe or recommend:

  • antibiotics
  • steroid treatments, possibly in cream or ointment form
  • topical cyclosporine (Gengraf)

Learn more about blepharitis here.

Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a common bacterial skin infection. It usually affects the skin on the lower legs, but it can appear on the face, including the areas around the eyes.

Cellulitis can cause redness, swelling, pain, and tenderness. In the eye area, this issue can be very serious and worsen without prompt treatment.

Contact a doctor right away if there are symptoms of cellulitis of the eye. These include:

The primary cause is bacteria entering the area, and this may occur due to:

  • an insect bite
  • eczema or another skin condition in the area
  • an injury
  • surgery

Treatment involves taking oral antibiotics for 5–14 days, along with pain relief medication.

This treatment should relieve the signs and symptoms, but contact the doctor if the issue persists or get worse or a new fever develops.

Learn more about cellulitis here.

Chalazion

This common issue feels like a small lump or swelling on the eyelid, and it is also called a meibomian cyst.

It develops when something blocks a meibomian gland. These line the eyelids, and a blockage can prevent one or more of these glands from releasing their secretions.

As a result, swelling and a cyst can form. If the cyst becomes infected, it causes pain and redness around the eye.

Symptoms of a meibomian cyst, or chalazion, include:

  • an inflamed lump on the eyelid
  • pain
  • irritation
  • swelling
  • tenderness
  • watery eyes
  • blurred vision

Home care strategies may help, such as gently massaging the eyelid with clean fingertips or applying a warm compress to the closed eyelid.

If these techniques do not work, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics, and in rare cases, they recommend minor surgery called incision curettage to remove the cyst.

How is a chalazion different from a stye?

Shingles

Shingles, sometimes called herpes-zoster, results from infection with the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.

Anyone who has had chickenpox may develop shingles at some point, and the virus can lie dormant in the nervous system for years.

Symptoms of shingles include:

  • fluid-filled blisters that can break
  • pain
  • flushed skin
  • itchiness
  • tingling sensations
  • a fever
  • headaches

The skin symptoms can arise in any area, including the face, causing redness around the eyes.

Currently, there is no cure for shingles, but prompt treatment with prescription medications reduces the risk of complications and speeds recovery.

To treat shingles, a doctor may prescribe:

  • valacyclovir (Valtrex)
  • acyclovir (Zovirax)
  • famciclovir (Famvir)
  • corticosteroid injections
  • anticonvulsants, such as gabapentin (Neurontin)

Learn more about shingles of the eye here.

Rosacea

Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that usually affects the face.

It causes facial flushing, and it can occur with small, pus-filled bumps, irritation, and swelling.

Health experts believe that the condition results from hereditary and environmental factors. Some of these triggering factors include:

  • drinking hot beverages
  • eating spicy foods
  • drinking alcoholic beverages, particularly red wine
  • having high levels of cathelicidin, a protein in the skin

Learn about treatments for rosacea here.

Some health issues that cause redness around the eyes require prompt medical care.

Consult a doctor if the redness lasts longer than 1 week or occurs with:

  • pain
  • blurred vision
  • sensitivity to light
  • discharge from either eye

Redness around the eyes is common. It may be a regular result of aging and skin thinning, or it may stem from a common health issue, such as eczema.

Certain health issues that cause this redness require swift medical attention. If the redness lasts longer than a week, or it occurs with pain, blurred vision, or other concerning symptoms, contact a healthcare provider.