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How to whiten your eyes

woman using eye drops to help whiten her eyes

Can I whiten the whites of my eyes?

Is it possible to get relief for your red eyes and make them whiter?

If your eye redness is due to allergies, digital eye strain or sleepiness, you may be able to quickly remedy the issue with eye drops or artificial tears. Eye drops are often the quickest way to whiten your eyes, but it’s important to address the underlying problem.

Let’s take a closer look at what causes red eyes and yellow eyes, and the best ways to get your eyes back to a normal white.

Why are my eyes red?

Eye redness can occur for a number of reasons. While eye strain, sleepiness and allergies are easy to self-diagnose and treat at home, other conditions like bacterial and viral conjunctivitis can also cause itchy, watery and red eyes.

If you constantly have the urge to use eye drops to moisten your red eyes, you might have dry eye syndrome. Dry eye can be caused by computer use, medications, allergies and some health conditions.

Other causes of red eye can include styes, eye infections, contact lens use and eye injuries.  

What about yellow eyes?

Yellow eyes are often accompanied by a general yellowing of the skin called jaundice. This can be caused by serious health conditions, including cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis and some autoimmune diseases.

Anemia can lead to the breakdown of your red blood cells, which can cause your eyes to turn yellow. Malaria can also cause your red blood cells to mutate, a side effect of which is yellow eyes. 

Jaundice may also be a sign that you have cancer of the liver, pancreas or gallbladder.

Permanent eye discoloration from sun exposure

The sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause extensive discoloration over years and decades, which can appear as chronic bloodshot eyes. This occurs due to the eye’s outer membrane growing excess blood vessels. If the redness is because the conjunctiva tissue becomes thickened and grows, that is called a pterygium.

Sun exposure can also cause yellow spots to form on the eyes called pingueculae. A pinguecula is a triangular growth on the conjunctiva that looks yellowish or light brown in color. While it results from UV exposure, a pinguecula is not a type of cancer.

There is a correlation between unprotected sun exposure and the development of brown spots or “eye freckles” in or on your eyes. Generally, eye freckles aren’t harmful, but they can run a higher risk of becoming cancer. If you notice any changes in your eyes or vision, see your eye doctor.

READ MORE: UV and sunglasses: How to protect your eyes

How to make your eyes whiter

If you have eye allergies, try to steer clear of the allergen that triggers you (if possible) and/or take an antihistamine. Some of the most common allergens are pollen, pet dander, mold and dust.

To alleviate digital eye strain, limit your screen time. Practice the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. If you are spending many hours a day looking at screens, it may be worthwhile to invest in a pair of computer glasses (link) to improve your visual comfort while using devices.

If your eyes are red because they are tired but your body is awake, no amount of coffee will perk them up. Get some sleep or try closed-eye meditation for a few minutes.

How to make red eyes whiter naturally

Perhaps you don’t trust eye drops — maybe you’re afraid to put anything in your eyes or you’ve had a bad experience in the past. Or it may simply be that you don’t have eye drops handy, and you need to whiten your eyes in a pinch.

If your concern is purely aesthetic, you can make your eyes look brighter with cosmetic contrast: 

  • Put on mascara. 

  • Apply nude eyeliner. 

  • Wear eyeglasses with dark frames. 

You can also try placing a cold spoon over your eyes to relax inflamed capillaries.

Changing your diet is another option. By eating more foods rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene, you can work to whiten your eyes from the inside-out. While this natural method is slow-acting, it’s also long-lasting and better for your eye and body health overall, so be patient with the process.

Treatment for permanent eye discolorations

If the sun has caused permanent redness, yellowing or pigmentation, there is a minor procedure called conjunctivoplasty that can treat these discolorations and whiten eyes safely. It is painless and typically takes less than 15 minutes for an ophthalmologist to perform.  

When to see a doctor

If over-the-counter or at-home remedies don’t provide relief for your red eyes, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor. They will assess the health of your eyes and determine the most effective treatment options. 

If you notice that the whites of your eyes are turning yellow, talk to your eye doctor immediately. A yellow tint to the eyes may be a symptom of a major underlying health condition and should be taken seriously. Once the condition has been treated, the whites of your eyes should return to normal.

Home remedies for bloodshot eyes. American Academy of Ophthalmology. April 2023.

Over-the-counter ocular decongestants in the United States – mechanisms of action and clinical utility for management of ocular redness. Clinical Optometry. July 2020.

Adult jaundice. Cleveland Clinic. July 2018.

Yellow eye color. Vision Center. April 2023.

The sun, UV light, and your eyes. American Academy of Ophthalmology. June 2020.

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