Vision Center is funded by our readers. We may earn commissions if you purchase something via one of our links.
In this article
Glassy eye is a non-medical term used to describe eyes that look shiny, glazed over, or out of focus.
Symptoms of glazed or glassy eyes can be caused by several health conditions, ranging from seasonal allergies to more severe conditions such as infection or disease.
Seasonal allergies are a common cause of glassy and itchy eyes. Many environmental factors trigger allergies, including:
In addition to itchiness and glassy eyes, other symptoms of allergies include:
Eliminating the allergen is the best way to treat allergies. You can also purchase over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medication (antihistamine such as Benadryl) and apply eye drops to minimize symptoms.
People who are intoxicated can have glassy, unfocused eyes.
Drugs (illegal and prescription) and alcohol abuse slow down the central nervous system (CNS), contributing to decreased blinking and dehydration, which causes dry, glassy eyes.
Other symptoms of intoxication include:
Symptoms of intoxication will typically subside over time after the body detoxes from the effects of alcohol and drugs.
Eyes can appear glassy when they are dry or not producing enough tears.
Several factors can cause dry eyes, including:
Other symptoms of dry eyes include:
Medicated or OTC eye drops are commonly used to treat dry eyes. Surgery to block tear ducts may be necessary to conserve tears in severe cases that are not relieved by medication.
Dehydration is a common cause of glassy eyes, especially in children, because of a decrease in tear production.
Severe dehydration can lead to serious health consequences, including:
In addition to glassy eyes, common symptoms of dehydration include:
Mild dehydration is treated with drinking water and getting out of extreme heat. A hospital visit for intravenous (IV) fluids is needed for more severe cases of dehydration.
Conjunctivitis can be caused by a bacterial infection, a viral infection, or allergies.
Common symptoms include:
Eye herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) infecting the cornea (keratitis).
Bacterial conjunctivitis is treated with antibiotic eye drops. Viral conjunctivitis clears on its own over a couple of days or weeks. Pink eye, caused by allergies, is treated by removing the triggering allergen.
Eye herpes typically improves over time but can also be treated with antiviral eye drops or oral medication.
Hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) predominantly affects people with diabetes and can cause glassy eyes when their sugar gets too low.
Symptoms of mild to moderate hypoglycemia include:
Low blood sugar is reversed by consuming carbohydrates. If left untreated, severe hypoglycemia can cause seizures and loss of consciousness.
Graves’ eye disease, also called Graves’ ophthalmopathy, is an autoimmune disease caused by the overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism). It results in eyelid retraction and bulging glassy eyes.
Symptoms of Graves’ disease include:
Mild cases of Graves’ ophthalmopathy involve medicated eye drops. Severe cases of Graves’ disease are treated with medication, radiation therapy, and surgery.
Cholera is a bacterial intestinal infection typically spread through the water in countries with inadequate water treatment, such as:
In addition to a glassy appearance, symptoms of cholera include:
Cholera is treated with rehydration and antibiotics. If left untreated, cholera can be deadly.
Computer vision syndrome (CVS) is an eye strain from prolonged screen time that can cause the appearance of glassy eyes.
Uncorrected eye problems can make CVS worse. CVS is exacerbated by:
Symptoms of CVS include:
Adjusting seating, posture, and lighting are good ways to reduce symptoms of CVS. Computer glasses can also help with glare.
Preventing glassy eyes first starts with treating the underlying cause of glossy eyes.
Tips on keeping your eyes healthy and clear include:
The appearance of glassy eyes is usually temporary and typically goes away after the underlying cause is treated or eliminated.
Seek medical care if symptoms are persistent and don’t resolve on their own or with standard treatments.
Glassy eyes are the side effect of many health conditions, including intoxication, allergies, eye infection, and dehydration. Mild symptoms of glossy eyes typically go away on their own or by treating the underlying issue.
Preventing the appearance of glassy eyes includes limiting screen time, proper hand hygiene, limiting alcohol and drug intake, and drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
In this article
All Vision Center content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed optometrist to ensure the information is factual and meets industry standards.
We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from recent scientific research, scholarly articles, textbooks, government agencies, optometry websites, and medical journals.