If you have ever looked in the mirror to find that the white of your eye has turned red and appears bloody, you have had a subconjunctival hemorrhage. This is not an uncommon occurrence. Because subconjunctival hemorrhages are generally painless, you will likely not even realize that you have one until you look in a mirror, or someone points it out to you. Although the appearance of this conditional can be alarming, subconjunctival hemorrhages are not a serious condition.

Subconjunctival hemorrhage symptoms

The only symptom of a subconjunctival hemorrhage is the appearance of a red spot on the eye. Subconjunctival hemorrhage pain is generally not a symptom of this condition. There is also no loss of vision or sensitivity associated with subconjunctival hemorrhage.

If you experience sudden redness of the eye accompanied by a change in vision, discharge, pain, or sensitivity to light you should seek medical care immediately, as these symptoms indicate a more serious problem than a subconjunctival hemorrhage.

Subconjunctival hemorrhage causes

subconjunctival hemorrhage

The conjunctiva is the membrane that covers the sclera, or the white part of the eye. The conjunctiva is thin and transparent, but full of tiny blood vessels. When a blood vessel bursts in the conjunctiva, a red blotch appears in the eye until the blood is reabsorbed into the body.

There is no singular cause for subconjunctival hemorrhages. Often, subconjunctival hemorrhages occur spontaneously without an obvious cause. In cases where the hemorrhage was caused by a specific action or event, causes of these burst blood vessels include:

  • Eye trauma
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Straining
  • Vomiting
  • Blood thinning medication

Subconjunctival hemorrhage treatment

Treatment for subconjunctival hemorrhages is minimal. If the hemorrhage was caused by any sort of trauma your doctor may prescribe medication or particular treatments. In most cases, however, the subconjunctival hemorrhage will clear up on its own. Eye drops may be used if the eye feels itchy or irritated. It is recommended that you avoid rubbing the eye to prevent additional bleeding. Subconjunctival hemorrhage healing time is about one to two weeks, as the conjunctiva slowly reabsorbs the blood.

When to call your doctor

If your subconjunctival hemorrhage was caused by trauma to the eye, always see your doctor to ensure that there is no further damage to the eye. It is also a good idea to see your doctor if you are experiencing pain, discomfort, or vision loss with a subconjunctival hemorrhage, or if you are having repeat hemorrhages. If your hemorrhage occured spontaneously and you do not have any additional symptoms then you likely do not need to visit your doctor at all.