Truck News


Preventive Maintenance: Don’t let bloodshot eyes have you seeing red

Now that we've lost an hour for Daylight Savings Time, you may see more bloodshot eyes at the truck stops than usual. Losing sleep can do that to you, but so can other things. Some are minor and some ...

Karen Bowen

Karen Bowen

Now that we’ve lost an hour for Daylight Savings Time, you may see more bloodshot eyes at the truck stops than usual. Losing sleep can do that to you, but so can other things. Some are minor and some – usually involving pain or reduced vision – may indicate a medical emergency.

In general, bloodshot eyes happen when the tiny blood vessels on the surface of the eye become inflamed because not enough oxygen is getting to the cornea or tissues covering the eyes. So, this makes your eyes look swollen, watery and tired.

When you read the following, it’s no wonder many truck drivers walk around with red eyes. The most common causes of bloodshot eyes are: extremely dry air (like the defrost blowing in your face for hours); eyestrain (looking out for the other guy); improper diet (too many meals on the run); too much sun in your eyes (reflecting off the hood); colds; fatigue (long hours of service); interrupted sleep (catching a few winks in between loads); allergies; a smoke-filled environment; dust; and long hours focusing on the highway ahead.

Sounds like just another day on the road, doesn’t it?

In addition to these causes, coughing, or straining while lifting can burst small blood vessels in your eye, making small, bright red patches appear in the white of your eye. Although this looks serious, it is quite common and usually heals on its own within a week or so.

To relieve these minor irritations, take 20 minutes, close your eyes and let them rest. Or, put a cool, wet rag over them.

Or, try rinsing them with cool sterile water or eye drops to soothe them. But, try not to rub them.

Avoid looking towards the sun and always wear UV-protected sunglasses when outside.

To keep your eyes healthy, eat a healthy diet. Vitamin A is important for strong, healthy eyes. Beta-carotene is a form of pre-vitamin A, which is readily converted to vitamin A in the body. Zinc helps vitamin A work in the eye.

Retinal is used in the body for regulating the development of various tissues, such as the cells of the eyes. Magnesium improves vision in people with vision problems. Lutein and Zeaxanthin act as filters to protect the eye from potentially damaging forms of light. Digestive Enzymes can be taken so your body absorbs more necessary minerals, such as vitamin A, zinc and copper for retinal health.

However, there are some more serious causes of bloodshot eyes that need special care. Eye conditions, such as myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness) require a medical examination and corrective eyeglasses. As well, eye infections should be taken very seriously (often accompanied by itching, discharge, pain and reduced vision).

Three common types of eye infections are Blepharitis, Conjunctivitis, and Corneal Ulcers.

Blepharitis is caused by bacteria that infects and inflames eyelash follicles. With this condition your eyelids look greasy and crusty, and often feel itchy.

If you have blepharitis, put a warm compress on your eyes for five minutes at least two times per day. Then, mix some warm water with some no-tears baby shampoo and gently wipe your lid with a cotton swab. Be sure to clean at the base of your lashes. Do this at least when you get up and when you go to bed.

Conjuntivitis is an infection of the membrane that lines the eyelid and coats the conjunctiva (surface of the eye). Most people call this ‘pink eye.’ It is extremely contagious if it’s caused by a virus or bacteria. Though, it can also be caused by an allergy or exterior irritation.

If you have conjunctivitis caused by virus or bacteria, keep your hands away from your eyes, or the infection will spread from one eye to the other. Apply warm or cool compresses (whichever feels better) throughout the day. Wet tea bags work very well to take out the redness and relieve the discomfort. You can buy over-the-counter eye drops that may help, too.

Forget about wearing contacts until the infection has totally disappeared and throw away the ones you were wearing when your eyes started turning red (or you’ll re-infect yourself when you put them back in). In addition, wash your hands frequently – ‘pink eye’ is one thing you don’t want to share!

Corneal Ulcers are sores on the cornea (outer covering of the eye). These are usually caused by virus or bacteria. Corneal Ulcers can also be caused by scratching your cornea with sand, dust, or wearing contacts too long.

Corneal Ulcers require quick medical attention. Don’t wait to see a doctor – your eyesight may be at risk!

So, if you look in your rearview mirror and see red eyes looking back at you, find out why! As a trucker, your vision is a necessity of life (and livelihood). Don’t take it for granted.

– Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at

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