Why Do My Eyes Turn Red When I Workout?

We often get asked why people’s eyes turn red when they workout. There are a few reasons why this happens, but the most common one is that the blood vessels in your eyes dilate when you body is under stress. This can be caused by a number of things, including physical exertion, changes in temperature, or even emotional stress.

Whatever the cause, if you find that your eyes are turning red when you workout, there are a few things you can do to help

Causes of Red Eyes

It’s not uncommon for your eyes to turn red after a workout. The most common cause of red eyes is exercise-induced vasodilation, which occurs when your pupils dilate due to increased adrenaline and blood flow. Other potential causes of red eyes include dry eyes, allergies, and overusing contact lenses or eye drops. In this article, let’s discuss the various causes of red eyes and how to prevent them.


Allergies can be a major cause of red eyes. If you have allergies, the proteins found in pollen, dust mites and pet dander can irritate your eyes when they are exposed to them. This irritation may result in itchy, watery and reddened eyes. Chronic exposure to allergens may leave your eyes vulnerable to infections that further contribute to redness.

Additional factors that might trigger allergic reactions include smoke, fumes and weather conditions such as wind. In some cases, symptoms may be more severe during specific seasons when certain types of plants tend to produce more pollen or trigger an increased occurrence of feline-related allergies due to the increased presence of cats outdoors.

To reduce red eyes caused by allergies, it is important to avoid the triggering substances or reduce exposure as much as possible. Talk with your doctor about over-the-counter antihistamines if you find relief with them in the past; allergy eye drops can also help provide some relief for redness associated with allergic reactions.

Exercise-induced vasodilation

Exercise-induced vasodilation is the dilation of blood vessels due to an increased effort during physical activity. During this process, more blood is pushed towards all areas of the body, including the eyes. This increased blood flow can cause redness and irritation of the eyes, due to a decrease in oxygen, an increase in carbon dioxide, or both. Additionally, body temperature increases during exercise and this can also cause redness.

The amount of redness you experience will vary from person to person and from activity to activity, so it’s important to recognize and respond to your own eye symptoms. To lower your risk for developing red eyes when you exercise, make sure you stay hydrated and wear sunglasses designed specifically for UV protection when outdoors.

Dry eyes

Dry eyes are a common cause of red eyes. This occurs when tears fail to lubricate the eyes adequately, resulting in a lack of moisture on the surface of your eyes. This can occur due to various medical conditions, such as allergies or aging, or from certain lifestyle factors, such as not blinking often enough or spending too much time outdoors with wind blowing in your face. One thing that can definitely dry out your eyes is physical activity. Constant sweat and breathing at high rates during exercise can cause eyes to become dry and irritated if not properly protected with eye drops beforehand.

Symptoms of Red Eyes

Working out can be a great way to stay healthy and fit, but it can also have some unintended side effects, such as red eyes. Red eyes can be caused by a variety of different things and can have a range of symptoms. In this section, we’ll be discussing some of the symptoms associated with red eyes that can occur when you exercise.


Eye itching is a common symptom of red eyes. It may feel like something is in your eye, or the eyelid may be so itchy that it causes you to want to scratch it constantly. In some cases, a foreign body (e.g., an eyelash or dirt) may be “stuck” in the eye and cause itching. A common condition known as allergic conjunctivitis can also cause itching due to an allergy-related inflammation of the surface of the eye. Rubbing your eyes may worsen symptoms and increase discomforts such as itching and burning sensations. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as possible so that your doctor can determine the underlying cause and recommend an appropriate course of treatment for your condition.

Burning sensation

If your eyes turn red when you exercise, it’s usually due to a condition known as exercise-induced vasodilation. During prolonged activity, the tiny blood vessels in your eyes dilate, which can cause inflammation and a burning sensation. This burning sensation is often accompanied by itching, tearing, and irritation. Other common symptoms of red eyes caused by exercise-induced vasodilation include dryness, increased sensitivity to light, and blurred vision. If your eyes are particularly red after exercising or if they become too uncomfortable to bear, don’t continue with the activity until you seek medical attention.


Swelling of the eyes, medically known as chemosis or conjunctivochalasis, is one of the most common symptoms of red eyes caused by exercise. This swelling can cause the eyelids to puff up and may even lead to drooping of the eyelid if left unchecked. In general, if only one eye is affected then it is likely due to an allergic reaction or some other form of irritation, while general swelling over both eyes usually signifies a problem with a disrupted circulation in the area. People experiencing excessive redness in their eyes should consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.


Red eyes after exercise can be the result of a variety of factors, including eye strain, allergies, or even dehydration. Preventing this annoying side effect of exercise can be done by taking a few simple steps. This section will discuss how to prevent your eyes from turning red when you work out.

Wear protective eyewear

Wearing protective eyewear while exercising can help to prevent your eyes from turning red. This is especially true if you are exercising in a dusty or windy environment. Protective eyewear can also be helpful when doing activities such as running, swimming, biking, or any other physical activity that could expose your eyes to irritants like pollen and dirt. In addition to helping you to avoid redness and discomfort, protective eyewear can also provide UV protection for your eyes. Wearing sunglasses with UV protection will help keep your eyes safe from the sun’s harmful rays and can also reduce the risk of wrinkles around the eyes and even cataracts. Remember that whatever type of protective eyeglasses you choose, make sure that the lenses have 100% UVA and UVB ray protection.

Use lubricating eye drops

When exercising, your eyes can become dry and red due to environmental factors such as dust, changing temperature, and wind. To reduce the risk of eye irritation, it is important to have lubricating eye drops on hand. Artificial tears or sterile saline drops are specially formulated with ingredients to encourage eye lubrication. These drops can be used before and after exercise as they provide relief from dryness and redness in the eyes. It is recommended to always look for preservative-free products; preservatives in eye drops can cause more irritation and damage. Additionally, ensure that you buy lenses that are specifically labeled for exercise activities by looking for the “sport label” when purchasing sports contact lenses or eyedrops for your workouts. Additionally, there are some everyday practices that you can incorporate to keep your eyes healthy during exercise such as wearing sunglasses in outdoor workouts and using a natural cleanser around the eyes after sweating or swimming since salt water can dry out your eyes.

Avoid rubbing your eyes

When your eyes become red after exercising, this condition is called photokeratitis, also known as arc eye. The most common cause of this temporary redness and discomfort of the eyes is due to ultraviolet (UV) light reflecting off the surfaces around you, such as snow or water. To minimize the risk of photokeratitis when exercising outdoors, it’s important to take measures to protect your eyes from UV radiation.

An effective way to reduce photokeratitis is to avoid rubbing your eyes when outside exercising. Rubbing can worsen the condition that causes red eyes and cause tissue damage. Additionally, refrain from using contact lenses while outside, as they can trap UV light behind the lens and make irritation worse. Wearing sunglasses that block 99–100% of both UVA and UVB radiation will help protect your eyes when exercising in areas with high levels of reflective glare and light such as on water or bright snow.


If your eyes turn red after working out, it could be due to exercise-induced vasodilation. This happens when your blood vessels dilate, leading to redness and tearing of the eyes. Fortunately, there are a few treatments that can help reduce the symptoms and provide relief. Read on to learn more about the treatments for exercise-induced vasodilation.

Allergy medications

If allergies are the cause of your red eyes after a workout, over-the-counter allergy medications can offer relief. Allergy medications often come in the form of oral pills and nasal sprays that target symptoms such as itchy, watery eyes, sneezing and a runny nose. General antihistamines such as loratadine (Claritin), cetirizine (Zyrtec) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can be effective for treating any redness due to allergies.

Antihistamine eye drops are also available which are specifically designed to relieve red, itchy eyes due to allergies. They work by blocking the action of histamine in the eye, which is responsible for the redness caused by allergies. Over-the-counter antihistamine eye drops such as ketotifen fumarate ophthalmic solution (Zaditor) can provide relief from mild forms of irritation as long as you do not use them for more than two days in a row without a break. For stronger cases, your doctor may prescribe a combination medication that combines an antihistamine with either a vasoconstrictor or decongestant such as naphazoline hydrochloride/pheniramine maleate (Visine Allergy).

Anti-inflammatory medications

Anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed by your ophthalmologist to reduce eye redness caused by exercise. This type of medication is typically used to control chronic inflammation and aims to reduce swelling in the eyes. Common anti-inflammatory medications may include steroid eye drops or oral steroids such as prednisone. While these treatments are effective, they come with potential side effects and should be taken under a doctor’s supervision. Additionally, anti-inflammatory medications will only be recommended if other causes have been ruled out and extreme redness persists.

Artificial tears

Artificial tears, often referred to as eye drops, provide a source of moisture and lubrication for red eyes that are caused by exercise. They are available over the counter or can be prescribed by an ophthalmologist. These products range in viscosity, preservatives, and ingredients that can provide temporary relief from the symptoms of dry eyes. It is important to speak with your health care provider before regularly using these drops on a regular basis as certain solutions may not be beneficial for all eye conditions. The most beneficial type is a preservative-free lubricant that has been formulated for keeping eyes moist and lubricated for extended periods of time.

When to See a Doctor

When your eyes turn red during or after a workout, it can be a sign of a more serious problem such as a bacterial infection or an eye injury. If you experience any pain or discomfort with your red eyes, you should see a doctor right away. This article will inform you of other signs and symptoms you should be aware of and when to seek medical help.

If symptoms persist

If you experience red, itchy eyes with persistent watering, visual problems or sensitivity to light that lingers after your workout, it is important to make an appointment with your doctor. The irritation or infection may not be exercise-related but could be caused by a range of other conditions such as allergies, bacterial or viral infections, glaucoma or a corneal ulcer. In some cases, the redness may indicate an eye injury that requires medical attention. Your doctor can examine your eyes and help you determine the source of the problem so that appropriate treatment can be provided.

If vision is impaired

If you experience blurred or impaired vision, or your eyes are tender and sensitive to light, it is important to see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible. It could be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as uveitis, which can cause permanent visual loss if left untreated. Additionally, sudden visual changes with pain may indicate a serious eye injury that requires immediate medical attention.

If you’re unsure why your eyes are turning red when you workout but believe it may be related to exercise-induced dry eye, seek the advice of an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Upon examination and diagnosis, they will be able to recommend ways to improve tear production and help protect your eyes from environmental dryness. Depending on the severity of your condition, this might include the use of artificial tears for temporary symptom relief, prescription medications for greater comfort and vision improvement over the long-term and lifestyle changes designed to keep your eyes lubricated and healthy.

If pain is severe

It’s important to know when to seek medical help if your eyes turn red when you workout. If the redness and irritation is severe, you should speak to a doctor as soon as possible. Severe eye irritation can be a sign of an underlying condition and this should be addressed promptly.

In addition, you should seek medical guidance if any of the following symptoms occur along with your red eyes: pain in the affected area, blurred vision or vision loss, discharge from the eye or pus coming from it. It is also important to monitor any changes in your eyesight, as well as any signs of further irritation or unusual changes in color or texture to your eyes. If any of these occur, it is best to get medical attention immediately so that an accurate diagnosis can be made and appropriate treatment administered.

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