What causes blood in your eyes (subconjunctival hemorrhages)? (2024)

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What causes blood in your eyes (subconjunctival hemorrhages)? (1)

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What is a subconjunctival hemorrhage?

A subconjunctival hemorrhage is a bright red spot on the white of your eye (sclera). It's caused by a popped blood vessel under the thin, clear tissue (conjunctiva) that covers the sclera. A subconjunctival hemorrhage can cause a small red spot on your eye or it can cover the entire sclera, causing a dramatic red, bloody eye.

Though it may look scary, a subconjunctival hemorrhage is harmless and typically goes away without treatment within a week or two.

A subconjunctival hemorrhage is blood on the front of the eye. Don't confuse it with blood in the front of the eye. Blood in the eye (behind the clear cornea) is a serious condition called a hyphema. Unlike a subconjunctival hemorrhage, a hyphema requires immediate attention from an eye doctor.

Subconjunctival hemorrhage symptoms

Subconjunctival hemorrhages usually don't have any symptoms.

(The medical terms symptom and sign are often confused or misused. Symptoms are indicators of a condition that can be recognized only by the persing experiencing them. Blurry vision is an example of a symptom. Signs are indicators that can be seen by others as well as the person experiencing them. A red eye is an example of a sign.)

What causes blood in your eyes (subconjunctival hemorrhages)? (2)

A subconjunctival hemorrhage looks like a bright red spot on the white part of the eye. In some cases, it will cover the entire white area.

A subconjunctival hemorrhage doesn't cause symptoms like blurry vision or eye pain. The only symptom a bloody eye from a popped blood vessel might cause is a mild scratchy feeling on the surface of your eye.

But the primary sign of a subconjunctival hemorrhage — a bright red spot on the white of your eye — is unmistakeable. It can be a relatively small spot or cover a large area of your sclera. Also, it might start as a small spot and get larger as the day goes on.

Sometimes, the bloody spot from a subconjunctival hemorrhage can expand to cover the entire white of your eye.

In most cases, a subconjunctival hemorrage will disappear on its own within a week or two. During this time, the spot will become less red and more yellow in color as the blood is resorbed (removed) by the body.If a subconjunctival doesn't go away completely or get significantly smaller within two weeks, see an eye doctor.

What causes a subconjunctival hemorrhage?

Something as simple as a cough or a sneeze can cause a subconjunctival hemorrhage and bloody eye.

Other potential causes include:

  • Eye trauma

  • A sudden increase in blood pressure (e.g., from lifting something heavy)

  • Straining due to constipation

  • Vomiting

  • Rubbing your eyes

  • Eye surgery, including LASIK and cataract surgery

  • Drug side effects

Risk factors for subconjunctival hemorrages include:

  • Diabetes

  • High blood pressure

  • Having a "cold" or allergies (that increase coughing and sneezing)

  • Wearing contact lenses (increases eye rubbing)

  • Use of aspirin or blood thinners

  • Aging (over age 50)

  • Blood clotting disorders

  • Vitamin K deficiency

But often, the cause of a subconjunctival hemorrhage is unknown.

How are subconjunctival hemorrhages treated?

There really is no treatment for subconjunctival hemorrhages. In some cases, eye drops (artificial tears) are recommended to keep the surface of the eye well-lubricated while the natural healing process takes place.

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

How to prevent subconjunctival hemorrhages

Follow these tips to avoid a bloody eye from a popped blood vessel under the conjunctiva:

  • Wear safety glasses and protective sports eyewear to avoid eye injuries.

  • Avoid rubbing your eyes. If your eyes itch, see an eye doctor to determine the cause and possible treatments.

  • Wear contact lenses responsibly. Clean and disinfect your contacts as directed, and don't overwear your lenses.

  • Stay healthy. Get plenty of exercise and rest and eat a healthful diet to avoid getting sick.

  • Control your allergies. See your physician or eye doctor to help prevent eye allergies and allergy-related coughing and sneezing.

  • Keep any blood disorders or health problems (e.g., diabetes; hypertension) under control with routine health care visits.

Remember: Subconjunctival hemorrhages are harmless and usually go away within a week or two. But if you have a persistent bloody eye or frequent popped blood vessels on your eye, see an eye doctor.

Subconjunctival hemorrhage (broken blood vessel in eye). Mayo Clinic. August 2019.

Subconjunctival hemorrhage. Cleveland Clinic. February 2018.

Subconjunctival hemorrhage: Risk factors and potential indicators. Clinical Ophthalmology. June 2013.

Page published on Monday, March 4, 2019

Page updated on Friday, April 1, 2022

What causes blood in your eyes (subconjunctival hemorrhages)? (2024)


What causes blood in your eyes (subconjunctival hemorrhages)? ›

Some things that may cause a subconjunctival hemorrhage include: Sudden increases in pressure in the head or neck, such as violent sneezing or coughing. Having high blood pressure or taking blood thinners. Rubbing the eyes.

What causes subconjunctival hemorrhage in the eye? ›

Some things that may cause a subconjunctival hemorrhage include: Sudden increases in pressure in the head or neck, such as violent sneezing or coughing. Having high blood pressure or taking blood thinners. Rubbing the eyes.

What is the fastest way to get rid of a subconjunctival hemorrhage? ›

This condition often goes away on its own. Your subconjunctival hemorrhage will likely go away in a few weeks. It will first turn from red to brown, and then to yellow. Currently, there are no treatments that will speed up this process.

What causes blood in your eyes? ›

Broken blood vessel in the eye

Even a strong sneeze or cough can cause a blood vessel to break in the eye. You don't need to treat it. A subconjunctival hemorrhage may look alarming, but it's usually a harmless condition that disappears within two weeks or so.

Can lack of sleep cause subconjunctival hemorrhage? ›

Also known as subconjunctival hemorrhage, popped blood vessels aren't directly caused by a lack of sleep. Most often, this is caused by violent coughing, sneezing, strain, or vomiting. However, not getting a full night's sleep will cause your eyes to be strained and increase your chances of this happening.

What causes hemorrhage inside the eye? ›

Trauma or health conditions that damage your eyes or blood vessels over time cause retinal hemorrhages. The most common causes of retinal hemorrhages include: Trauma. Vascular disease (conditions that affect your blood vessels).

What should I avoid with subconjunctival hemorrhage? ›

Do not take aspirin or products that contain aspirin, which can increase bleeding.

What vitamin deficiency causes subconjunctival hemorrhage? ›

Bleeding due to scurvy may also occur in the eye, presenting as subconjunctival hemorrhages and retinal hemorrhages. Vitamin C deficiency leads to weakening of osteoid in bone, leading to subperiosteal hemorrhage as a manifestation of scurvy, more often in long bones.

What are the red flags for subconjunctival hemorrhage? ›

Other than the red spot in your eye, there are no subconjunctival hemorrhage symptoms. It doesn't cause pain or swelling, and it doesn't affect your vision. Most people who have a subconjunctival hemorrhage don't even know it until they look in a mirror or someone tells them.

When should I worry about a burst blood vessel in my eye? ›

Call your doctor if the blood doesn't go away in 2 or 3 weeks, if you also have pain or vision problems, if you have more than one subconjunctival hemorrhage, or if the blood is anywhere inside the colored part of your eye (iris).

Should I go to the ER for a subconjunctival hemorrhage? ›

Seek immediate attention from your eye doctor or emergency department if your subconjunctival hemorrhage is associated with any of the following: Pain associated with the hemorrhage. Changes in your vision ( blurry vision, double vision, difficulty seeing) History of a bleeding disorder.

Which eye drops are best for subconjunctival hemorrhage? ›

You may want to use eye drops, such as artificial tears, to soothe any scratchy feeling you may be experiencing. Beyond that, the blood will absorb within about 1 to 2 weeks, and you'll need no treatment.

Why is my subconjunctival hemorrhage spreading? ›

The fibrous connections under the conjunctiva, including elastic and connective tissues, become more fragile with age, and this can be the reason for easy spread of hemorrhage in older patients.

Does a broken blood vessel in the eye indicate a stroke? ›

Damage to small blood vessels of the eye may be a marker for heightened risk of stroke in people with diabetes. Damage to small blood vessels in the eye may also indicate injury to other blood vessels that can result in stroke or vascular dementia.

Is blood in the eye an emergency? ›

A hyphema is usually caused by a trauma to the eye, and blood is seen in the eyeball. This is a medical emergency, and immediate medical care is necessary. Symptoms of hyphema include blood that's visible in the eye following some type of trauma to the eye or surrounding area.

What disease causes subconjunctival hemorrhage? ›

Less common causes of subconjunctival hemorrhage include: diabetes. high blood pressure. medicines that can make you bleed easily (such as aspirin or blood thinners like Coumadin)

What is an eye stroke? ›

What is an Eye Stroke? An eye stroke, or anterior ischemic optic neuropathy, is a dangerous and potentially debilitating condition that occurs from a lack of sufficient blood flow to the tissues located in the front part of the optic nerve.

Why did I woke up with a broken blood vessel in my eye? ›

The bottom line

A burst blood vessel in the eye can look like a serious injury, but it's usually nothing to worry about. Popped vessels in the eye can happen relatively easily. They can be caused by rubbing your eyes, coughing, or sneezing, or by inserting or removing your contact lenses.

What virus causes eye hemorrhage? ›

Acute hemorrhagic conjunctivitis caused most commonly by enterovirus 70 can cause widely extensive SCH, however, the prevalence of this disease is declining.

How to heal a broken blood vessel in the eye fast? ›

Since the conjunctiva is thin, oxygen gets to this blood, so it remains quite red until absorbed. In truth, there is nothing you can do to speed up the absorption which can take five to 10 days, although some think warm compresses can help this process.

What disease makes you bleed from the eyes? ›

Hyphema is the medical term for bleeding inside your eye. Specifically, hyphema causes blood to pool behind your cornea (the outermost layer of your eye) and your iris (the colored part of your eye). It's usually caused by something hitting your eye. Sports injuries are the most common cause of hyphema.

How do you treat a subconjunctival hemorrhage at home? ›

To relieve any discomfort from swelling and to prevent additional bleeding, apply cold compresses several times a day for the first day or two. After a couple of days, you can apply warm compresses several times a day to aid in the healing process.

Why wont my subconjunctival hemorrhage go away? ›

It would be unusual for the subconjunctival hemorrhage to last longer than a few weeks. Perhaps the hemorrhages are recurring over and over, in which case your ophthalmologist can confirm that they are benign (harmless) in nature and are not associated with any lesions that can bleed easily.

What does a bleed behind the eye indicate? ›

Bleeding usually comes from the blood vessels that feed the retina at the back of the eye. Changes caused from complications of diabetes are the most common cause of vitreous hemorrhage in adults. Diabetes can cause the growth of abnormal vessels, which are weak and can break open and bleed into the vitreous.

What causes a dot hemorrhage in the eye? ›

These are dense, dark red, sharply outlined, and are seen in disorders that affect the pre-venular deep capillary layer. Common causes for such hemorrhages include diabetic retinopathy, retinal vein occlusions, ocular ischemic syndrome, sickle cell retinopathy, and juxta foveal telangiectasia.

Can subconjunctival hemorrhage be caused by stress? ›

Almost half of spontaneous cases of subconjunctival hemorrhage are idiopathic, meaning there is no known — or no remembered — cause. The ordinary stress or strains of daily life, fleeting moments of extreme exertion, an insignificant bump, or a barely perceived illness can quietly lead to a leak.

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