Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

Friday, Oct 1, 2021 by Nisha Gupta, MD

This month we will begin our series discussing various causes of a red eye. There are many reasons for someone to have a red eye including infection, inflammation, medications, and trauma. Our first condition will be subconjunctival hemorrhage.

What is a subconjunctival hemorrhage?

A subconjunctival hemorrhage occurs when a blood vessel breaks between the layers of the conjunctiva and sclera. It looks like a bright red patch that can cover a large part of the white part of the eye.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage. Image Source 1

What are some of the causes?

Usually this is a spontaneous occurrence. It can be from increased pressure to the eye that occurs with forceful coughing, vomiting, bearing down, or heavy lifting. Strongly rubbing the eye is another cause. Anticoagulation medications, bleeding disorders, and occasionally high blood pressure can lead to these hemorrhages. Trauma to the eye can also cause this hemorrhage.

Are there any symptoms?

A subconjunctival hemorrhage is a painless condition that does not cause vision changes or swelling. Occasionally one may feel some discomfort or a scratchy sensation on the surface of the eye. On exam, the blood is visible on top of the sclera as a bright red patch.

How is this treated?

This condition does not require treatment unless there is an injury associated with it. It usually resolves on its own within 1-2 weeks. Artificial tears or lubricating drops can help relieve any eye irritation. It is important to not rub the eye and wear protective eyewear during activities that involve flying debris. If someone has recurring hemorrhages, doctors will look for other causes such as a bleeding disorder.

Be sure to contact your doctor if this does not resolve within a few weeks, if you experience any eye pain or vision changes, or if you get these hemorrhages frequently. There are many causes for red eyes. Make sure to see an ophthalmologist for any new symptoms and get treatment if necessary.

Return next month for a discussion on a new topic!

  1. Images courtesy of Daniel Flather via Wikimedia Commons [return]

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