Blood Vessel In Eye

Over-the-counter (OTC) aspirin-free pain relief medications can help if you feel discomfort or pain. You can use OTC eye moisturizing drops if your eyes feel dry.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

A subconjunctival hemorrhage is a red spot on your eye caused by a broken blood vessel. It might look scary, but it’s usually harmless.

Your conjunctiva, the clear membrane that covers your eye, has a lot of tiny blood vessels. When blood gets trapped beneath this layer, it’s called subconjunctival. This blood doesn’t involve the inside of your eye or your cornea, so your vision isn’t affected.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage Symptoms

You might not even know that a blood vessel has broken until you look in a mirror. You probably won’t notice any symptoms like vision changes, discharge, or pain. You may only have a scratchy feeling on the surface of your eye.

The red spot may grow over 24 to 48 hours. Then it will slowly turn yellow as your eye absorbs the blood.

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).

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage Causes

These hemorrhages often happen when your blood pressure spikes because of:

Some red spots result from an injury or illness, such as:

  • Roughly rubbing your eye
  • Injury, like having something stuck in your eye
  • Contact lenses
  • Viral infection
  • Surgery

Less common causes include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Medicines that make you bleed easily, such as aspirin or blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin)
  • Blood clotting disorders

Your odds of getting a subconjunctival hemorrhage go up as you get older, especially after age 50, because you’re more likely to get conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage Diagnosis

Your doctor can tell that you have a subconjunctival hemorrhage just from looking at your eye. They’ll ask about your overall health, including injuries. They may also check your blood pressure and look closely at your eye with a device called a slit lamp.

You could need a blood test to make sure you don’t have a serious bleeding disorder.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage Treatment

Most red spots heal on their own without treatment. Depending on how big it is, it may take a few days or a few weeks to go away. There’s no way to speed up this process.

Ice packs and over-the-counter artificial tears can help ease any swelling and discomfort.

Medical care

Your doctor will treat any injury or condition that caused your subconjunctival hemorrhage, such as medication for high blood pressure.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage Prevention

If you need to rub your eye, do it gently. If you wear contact lenses, clean and disinfect them regularly. Wear protective gear when you’re playing sports or doing activities that could cause an eye injury. Keep bleeding disorders under control.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage Complications

In most cases, there are no complications. It’s rare, but a total subconjunctival hemorrhage may be a sign of a serious vascular disorder in older people.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage Outlook

A subconjunctival hemorrhage will usually go away without causing any vision problems. It happens again about 10% of the time in most people, or more often in those who take medications like blood thinners.

Show Sources

American Academy of Ophthalmology: “Subconjunctival Hemorrhage Causes,” “Subconjunctival Hemorrhage Treatment,” “What Is a Subconjunctival Hemorrhage?”

Mayo Clinic: “Subconjunctival Hemorrhage (broken blood vessel in eye): Diagnosis,” “Subconjunctival Hemorrhage (broken blood vessel in eye): Overview,”

Clinical Ophthalmology: “Subconjunctival hemorrhage: risk factors and potential indicators.”

Merck Manual Consumer Version: “Subconjunctival Hemorrhage.”

KidsHealth: “A to Z: Subconjunctival Hemorrhage.”

Cedars-Sinai: “Subconjunctival Hemorrhage.”

StatPearls: “Subconjunctival Hemorrhage.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Subconjunctival Hemorrhage.”

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage (Blood in Eye) – Causes & Treatment

illustration of 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.

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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.)

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.

Popped Blood Vessel in Eye

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In this article

What Causes a Popped Blood Vessel in the Eye?

A popped blood vessel in the eye is medically known as a subconjunctival hemorrhage. It is a red spot on the white of your eye (sclera). It also might spread and cover the entire sclera.

These are common and rarely serious. They usually resolve on their own without medical attention.

A popped blood vessel is caused by a sudden increase in blood pressure. This creates a splash of bright red blood in the sclera, the white outer layer of the eye.

A variety of things can cause this, including:

  • Strong sneezing or coughing
  • Severe vomiting
  • Muscle strain from heavy lifting
  • Trauma or injury
  • Small foreign objects
  • Contact lenses
  • Eye surgery complications
  • Eye infections
  • Medicinal side effects
  • Secondary complications from another medical problem

A popped blood vessel in the eye can indicate an underlying condition. Identifying its cause determines if this is so.

For instance, when you have colds you often sneeze. If you wake up with a red spot in your eye, chances are the two issues are linked. The popped blood vessel will resolve as your cold improves.

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Sometimes eyes can be bloodshot. This doesn’t always mean there’s a broken blood vessel. Popped blood vessels also aren’t indicative of eye disease.

Contact a healthcare professional if you’re experiencing vision changes or problems in addition to the popped blood vessel in your eye. This will determine if an additional medical evaluation is needed.

When a blood vessel pops in the eye, this causes blood to pool on the sclera. This is called a subconjunctival hemorrhage. It is usually caused by straining, trauma, a powerful sneeze or cough, or an infection. This typically resolves after a few days. If it persists, seek medical attention.

Symptoms of a Popped Blood Vessel in the Eye

Having blood in your eye is alarming, but a subconjunctival hemorrhage is typically painless. You may not even know you have a red spot on your eye until someone points it out or you look in the mirror.

Sometimes you might experience mild irritation, but it won’t affect your vision or interfere with daily activities.

Popped Blood Vessel in Infants’ Eyes

Newborns can also develop a subconjunctival hemorrhage during childbirth. This commonly occurs during a stressful birth when the pressure from labor contractions causes the baby’s blood vessels to burst. While scary, it is not harmful and will heal without medical care.

Other reasons for a newborn to have a subconjunctival hemorrhage include:

  • High birth weight
  • Extreme force used to pull the baby out of the birth canal
  • Use of forceps or vacuum extractor
  • If the umbilical cord was around the neck

Although rare, subconjunctival hemorrhage in infants and children can also signify abuse-related nonaccidental trauma. Nonaccidental trauma should be considered if there is subconjunctival bleeding in both eyes, paired with facial petechiae (tiny spots of bleeding under the skin).

Can You Prevent a Busted Blood Vessel in the Eye?

There are no proven methods to prevent blood vessels in your eye from popping. However, there are a few precautionary measures you can try. These include:

  • Wearing protective eyewear during sports or while being in a dangerous environment
  • Wearing sunglasses
  • Avoiding violent sneezing and coughing if possible
  • Avoiding activities likely to make you vomit, like heavy drinking

Popped Blood Vessel in Eye

How to Get Rid of a Popped Blood Vessel in the Eye?

Most of the time, popped blood vessels clear up on their own over time.

Over-the-counter (OTC) aspirin-free pain relief medications can help if you feel discomfort or pain. You can use OTC eye moisturizing drops if your eyes feel dry.

If the popped blood vessel is caused by trauma or injury, your doctor might prescribe antibiotic drops or medication to reduce the risk of infection.

Medication is also needed if the subconjunctival hemorrhage is due to infection.

To prevent a busted blood vessel in the eye, refrain from doing strenuous activities that involve heavy lifting. Also, wear sunglasses or protective eyewear when needed. OTC aspirin-free pain relief medications and moisturizing drops may help popped blood vessels. Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics when the condition is caused by trauma or an infection.

When to Be Concerned About a Bleeding Eye

In some circumstances, a bleeding eye or popped blood vessel means you should see an eye doctor.

If the cause of the bleeding is due to any type of injury or trauma, you should see your doctor. Bleeding in the eye can indicate a hyphema.

This means blood is pooling into the space between the cornea and iris. It replaces the usual liquid occupying that space. The condition varies in severity but can be serious and cause blindness.

Some things that can cause a hyphema include:

  • Blunt force trauma to the eye
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Blood-thinning medications
  • Eye tumors

Speak to your doctor if you take blood thinners or have a bleeding disorder.

Seeing red on the surface of your eye probably isn’t a cause for concern. But good eye care is an important part of your overall health.

Recurrent subconjunctival hemorrhages could be a sign of a more serious medical problem.

How Do You Treat a Burst Blood Vessel in the Eye?

Seeing blood in the eye can be scary, but it’s usually not a cause for alarm.

The body reabsorbs most of the blood from a subconjunctival hemorrhage. This happens within a week after the initial eye injury. However, a larger leak can take longer to resolve.

If you experience pain or discomfort, OTC non-blood thinning pain relief medications are appropriate.

Some doctors also recommend using moisturizing eye drops or artificial tears. In some cases, antibiotic drops or ointments are needed.

Read More: Conjunctiva

Common Questions and Answers

Can stress cause you to pop a blood vessel in your eye?

Stress can indirectly cause a popped blood vessel in your eye. Stress won’t cause a blood vessel to burst, but things associated with stress – especially crying – are common causes of subconjunctival hemorrhage.

Does a broken blood vessel in the eye get worse before it gets better?

Sometimes, or at least it will seem to worsen before it begins healing. This is the case if you notice the issue immediately after it begins. Contact your doctor if the problem continues to worsen over days or looks worse after several days of improvement.

Hot or cold compress for a broken blood vessel in the eye?

Both hot and cold compresses can be used to ease the discomfort of a burst blood vessel in the eye. Use a cold compress in the first 24 hours after you notice the problem. Then switch to warm compresses. Compresses can be used up to three times per day for about 10 to 15 minutes.

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population []; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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