Red eyes & liver problems

red eye image by Ken Marshall from

Red eyes can be a symptom of a liver problem known as cirrhosis, the alcoholic liver disease which is potentially fatal although red eyes are more commonly a symptom of infection such as conjunctivitis.


The eye is a sensory organ which serves as a light-detection system and a camera through which we see and experience the world. Also, it is a self-cleaning organ using eyelids to protect the eye from harmful dust particles and tears prevent infection as it contains an antiseptic to wash away the impurities. The eye is a window into our general health and health issues show in the condition of the eyes.

The liver has various functions as it produces blood proteins, controls blood sugar levels, transports fat around the body, manufactures bile, and acts like a detoxification unit as it removes hormones, drugs and toxins from the blood and backs up the immune system. It is the only organ that can heal itself providing it does not suffer irreparable damage.


Common conditions causing red eyes are due to infections, drugs or eye defects such as conjunctivitis, common cold, corneal scratches, blood thinning medication (Warfrin) and glaucoma; as well as a subconjunctival haemorrhage caused by coughing, sneezing or high blood pressure. However, red eyes can also be a symptom of a sluggish liver or the excessive consumption of alcohol, a disease known as alcoholic liver disease where the alcohol damages the cells and kills the liver causing death.


Alcoholic liver disease is detected only when the liver starts to die and the symptoms can be similar to a hepatitis infection, which are fever, weakness, jaundice, abdominal pain and fatigue, as well as other symptoms such as bad breath, sweating, itching, blemished skin and red eyes. The condition can be confirmed through liver function tests.


Abstinence from drinking alcohol is the only treatment for alcoholic liver disease and if ignored the consequences can be fatal. Once a sufferer stops drinking, the liver starts to heal itself sufficiently to sustain life. The red eyes are only a symptom of the condition and will clear up by itself providing the sufferer stops drinking.


People who like to drink alcohol should not drink excessively but only in moderation following unit consumption guidelines, specified on the product.