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Subconjunctival Hemorrhage (Blood in Eye): Causes & Treatment

What is a Subconjunctival Hemorrhage?

A subconjunctival hemorrhage is a red spot in the eye which occurs when small, delicate blood vessels break beneath the tissue covering the white of the eye (conjunctiva). A subconjunctival hemorrhage usually is benign, causing no vision problems or discomfort despite its appearance.

But eye redness also can be a sign of other types of potentially serious eye conditions. Particularly if you have eye discharge, you should visit your eye doctor for an eye exam to rule out an infection caused by bacteria, viruses or other microorganisms.

In addition, you should seek immediate care from an eye care professional whenever you experience unusual and persistent redness of the eye accompanied by a sudden change in vision, pain or strong light sensitivity. This type of eye redness can be a sign of other eye problems such as sudden onset of glaucoma.

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What causes subconjunctival hemorrhages?


Although it is not always possible to identify the source of the problem, some potential causes of subconjunctival hemorrhage include:

  • Eye trauma

  • A sudden increase in blood pressure that can result from heavy lifting, coughing, sneezing, laughing and constipation

  • Aspirin or blood thinners such as warfarin (one brand name is Coumadin)

  • Rarely, a blood clotting disorder or vitamin K deficiency (vitamin K aids the functioning of proteins necessary for blood clotting)

  • Eye surgery, including LASIK and cataract surgery

How are subconjunctival hemorrhages treated?

Lubricant artificial tears can soothe the eyes, although eye drops cannot help repair the broken blood vessels.

If you are taking aspirin or blood thinners, continue taking them unless your doctor specifically instructs you to do otherwise.

Make sure not to rub your eye, which can increase the risk of re-bleeding right after onset — similar to how a nose bleed is susceptible to re-bleeding in the early stages.

How long do subconjunctival hemorrhages last?

In most cases, it takes seven to 10 days for a subconjunctival hemorrhage to resolve on its own. As the blood gradually disappears with time, the affected area can change color, like a bruise.

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