You’ve seen it in all the comedy movies. In memes. Maybe even in your own mirror. Red eyes are definitely a common side effect of smoking cannabis. But what a lot of people don’t know is why this happens. What makes your eyes red after smoking cannabis? Does CBD make your eyes red?
The short answer is: No, CBD doesn’t make eyes red. There are other factors at play that lead to the red eyes you see after smoking cannabis.
Why Do Our Eyes Get Red?
Your eyes may appear red when the small blood vessels located between the sclera — also known as the white of the eye —and the overlying clear conjunctiva of the eye are dilated. There are many different environmental and lifestyle-related factors that may lead to these tiny blood vessels becoming swollen or expanding.
The most common reasons for red eyes are allergies, eye fatigue, and eye infections. Wearing contacts all day is another common practice that often leads to red eyes since your eyes can get strained and dry if they’re left in too long. Red eyes can also be caused by more serious eye conditions and diseases, like glaucoma.
There are a lot of environmental factors that could be at play when your eyes appear bloodshot. The most common are allergies and air pollution. You can also get red eyes from smoke, whether it’s fire-related or from second-hand cigarette smoke. Dry air, dust, and airborne fumes also cause bloodshot eyes, as does overexposure to sunlight.
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Common Eye Conditions
You can also get bloodshot and red eyes from eye conditions like dry eyes, wearing contacts, not getting enough sleep, and digital eye strain. Digital eye strain is also known as computer vision syndrome.
The average person spends about seven hours a day in front of their computer, which can lead to eye strain, blurriness, and headaches. Ensure you view your computer from a proper distance and have the correct posture to lessen the chance of straining your eyes.
If you wear contacts, make sure you are cleaning and storing them properly and not reusing disposable lenses. You should also wash your hands if you think you’ll be touching the area around your eye. This can also prevent infection.
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Serious Eye Problems
Sometimes red eyes can be a sign of a bigger problem, like eye infections or an eye injury. It could also be a sign of glaucoma, a corneal ulcer, or uveitis.
People may also get red eyes from recent eye surgeries, like LASIK. If you’re unsure what has led your eyes to become bloodshot or are also experiencing discomfort, you may want to contact an eye doctor.
Does CBD Make Your Eyes Red?
You probably saw marijuana listed as a possible culprit for red eyes, but CBD does not make your eyes red. CBD is a chemical compound found in hemp and marijuana plants. It’s a cannabinoid that interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is essential to your body’s homeostasis, meaning it contributes to your body’s stability. This includes appetite, digestion, mood, memory, sleep, muscle formation, stress, and more.
CBD doesn’t bind directly with any receptors and instead produces a range of beneficial effects by influencing receptor-independent pathways. Blood vessel dilation is not included in the long list of CBD’s beneficial effects, meaning it plays no part in your eyes’ redness.
Does CBD Make Your Eyes Dry?
Many times, redness is accompanied by dryness. The main reason behind dryness is a dysfunction in the meibomian gland, located behind the eyelashes. The meibomian gland produces a fatty substance that slows tear evaporation.
If there’s a lack of oil production, dry eyes will occur due to a subsequent lack of tears. Some research suggests that CBD topicals may actually help restore the meibomian glands’ function and reduce dry eyes. So CBD actually may do the opposite!
Why Does Smoking Marijuana Make Your Eyes Red?
So if CBD doesn’t make your eyes red, why does smoking marijuana lead to bloodshot eyes? The answer is that it contains THC.
CBD and THC both interact with your body’s cannabinoid receptors, but unlike the nonpsychoactive CBD, THC directly bonds with them. Research has shown that most of the temporary side effects people experience from marijuana are caused by THC. This includes an increased heart rate, issues with coordination, dry mouth, memory loss, and — you guessed it — red eyes.
There are a few other less common reasons that cannabis may be making your eyes red. Some people are allergic to smoke, and their eyes become irritated in response. This can lead to red eyes.
Some people are also allergic to cannabis itself, another factor that would create redness. Over the years, being allergic to marijuana pollen has become more common. Hypersensitivities or allergies to cannabis may cause itchiness, runny nose, sneezing, dry cough, and even nausea.
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Why Does THC Make Your Eyes Red?
Consuming marijuana leads to increased heart rate and increased blood pressure. This happens when the plant’s cannabinoids interact with your endocannabinoid receptors. The ECS has two receptors, CB1 and CB2. The eye, and much of the brain, contain CB1 receptors. When THC binds with these receptors, it can contribute to the inception of red eyes.
After the initial effects of THC start to normalize, your heart rate usually returns to normal, and your blood pressure decreases. Subsequently, CB1 receptors signal your body to lower blood pressure throughout, including the “intraocular” pressure in your eyes. When that happens, your blood vessels will dilate, which increases blood flow to the eyes. That’s when your eyes start to appear red and bloodshot.
If you ingest edibles instead of smoking marijuana your eyes will still turn red. That’s because it’s about the amount of THC you consumed, not the smoke itself. It may take longer for you to see these side effects though, since edibles take longer to reach your bloodstream.
Do Red Eyes Mean “Better” Cannabis?
If you remember from earlier, THC bonds directly with the endocannabinoid receptors in your body’s ECS. Meanwhile, CBD doesn’t bond with those same receptors. Instead, it stimulates your ECS to create more of its own natural cannabinoids. In fact, CBD is believed to counteract THC’s effects since it blocks THC from directly bonding with receptors.
Depending on the amount of CBD taken and the type of CBD that was ingested, CBD is known to limit THC’s psychoactive effects. The strength of the THC also plays a factor in CBD’s ability to counteract the effects.
While CBD and THC can be taken separately, many people take them together to experience the “Entourage Effect.” This effect can be defined as all the cannabinoids in cannabis working together to provide the most benefit. You can take THC and CBD separately, but together they provide consumers with the best outcomes.
The greater the concentration of THC, the stronger the psychoactive side effects will be. That includes red eyes. If your eyes are more bloodshot or redder for longer periods, that means the cannabis was very potent. Subsequently, you will likely feel the effects longer and more intensely.
How to Make Your Eyes Not Red
Getting bloodshot eyes from smoking marijuana is not something to be concerned about. Well, unless you don’t want other people to know.
If you’re going to be smoking marijuana, you may want to have eye drops on hand. There are eye drop products made specifically to reduce eye redness. They contain a drug called vasoconstrictors, which shrinks your blood vessels. Just keep in mind that frequently using these eye drops can lead to you needing them more often to keep red-eye from coming back.
You should also remember to stay hydrated and wash your face (including eyelids) with cold water. If you happen to wear contacts you should remove them if possible, giving your eyes some rest.
If your eyes stay bloodshot for a long time or you have blurred vision, you can also see a doctor for medical advice. A doctor may recommend various eye drops. You should see a doctor if you feel any discomfort along with the redness.
Another way to avoid bloodshot eyes is to consume cannabis products that have lower levels of THC. Or try hemp products. Since CBD is nonpsychoactive, it provides all of the benefits of marijuana without the high. This also means avoiding some of the side effects associated with THC, including red eyes.
CBD hemp flower has less than .3% THC, but it still may provide relief when you’re experiencing soreness or discomfort. Also, it may help you relax when you’re feeling nervous or tense. Furthermore, CBD hemp flower may help consumers sleep a bit better and better sleep can help reduce the redness in the eyes.
There’s also CBD oil tinctures, CBD edibles, and CBD vape cartridges. These CBD products, like our Hawaiian Haze CBD, will ensure you don’t get red eyes or any other of the side effects associated with THC while still letting you experience many of the benefits.
The red eyes you see in movies or that comedians joke about on stage are not caused by CBD. That side effect actually comes from THC. If you’re smoking or using CBD products you won’t experience many of the common side effects associated with marijuana, including those glaring bloodshot eyes. Read more here.