Red Spots In Eyes

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What You Need to Know If You Have a Red Spot on Your Eye

A red spot on the white of your eye can be alarming, but it’s probably not as serious as it looks.

It may be that one or more tiny blood vessels in your eye have broken and leaked. This is called subconjunctival hemorrhage. It can happen after something as simple as an unexpected cough or a sneezing fit.

Despite appearances, you probably won’t feel a thing. It’s usually harmless and clears up without treatment.

Keep reading to learn some causes of red spots on the eye, plus signs that it could be something more serious.

Red spots on the eye can happen to anyone of any age. That’s because the little blood vessels of the eye are fragile and easily broken. Here are some reasons you might have red spots on the whites of your eyes.

A spike in blood pressure

Anything that makes you strain can temporarily spike your blood pressure and break a few capillaries in your eyes. Some examples of these activities include:

  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • vomiting
  • moving your bowels
  • childbirth
  • heavy lifting

High blood pressure itself is a less common cause of red spots on the eye.

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is not a common cause of red spots in the eye. But it’s the most common reason for vision loss among people with all types of diabetes.

The condition causes retinal blood vessels to leak fluid or bleed. Symptoms may include floaters and blurry vision.

  1. Mild nonproliferative retinopathy. Some of the tiny blood vessels (microaneurysms) in the retina begin to swell, which may cause fluid to leak.
  2. Moderate nonproliferative retinopathy. Blood vessels begin to distort and have trouble transporting blood.
  3. Severe nonproliferative retinopathy. Many blood vessels are now blocked, so some areas of the retina no longer receive blood at all. This spurs the growth of new blood vessels.
  4. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy. An abundance of new blood vessels are growing inside the retina’s surface and into the vitreous gel. The new blood vessels are delicate, so they tend to leak and bleed. As scar tissue forms, the retina can become detached, leading to permanent vision loss.

If you have diabetes, plan on having a comprehensive dilated eye exam once a year or as advised by your doctor.

Eye injury

If you get poked in the eye or something flies into your eye, the injury can cause bleeding. Even mild trauma, such as when you rub your eyes a bit too hard, can result in broken capillaries and red spots.

That’s why it’s a good idea to use protective eyewear for work or sports that involve flying objects or debris.

Contact lens problem

A tiny speck of dust trapped behind your contact lens can cause huge irritation. Even more so if you respond by rubbing your eye.

As soon as you feel something in your eye, remove the lens and give it a thorough cleaning. Don’t wear contact lenses longer than recommended by your eye doctor, and make sure to replace them as needed.

Outdoors, wear sunglasses to protect against wind and dirt. Use appropriate eye protection for sports and other activities that could cause something to fly into your eyes.

Blood thinning medication

Some medications thin the blood, which makes it easier to bleed. That might be the case if you take aspirin too often or you take interferons.

  • apixaban (Eliquis)
  • dabigatran (Pradaxa)
  • enoxaparin (Lovenox)
  • heparin
  • rivaroxaban (Xarelto)
  • warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven)

Blood clotting disorders

It’s rare, but having a blood clotting disorder such as hemophilia or von Willebrand disease can increase the risk of subconjunctival hemorrhage.

Hyphema

Hyphema is not subconjunctival hemorrhage. Though they may look similar, hyphema causes additional symptoms, such as pain and light sensitivity.

Hyphema is caused by a tear to the iris or pupil, usually from an injury. Blood pools inside the front of the eye and can cover the iris and pupil.

That can block some or all of your vision. Untreated, it can permanently harm your vision.

If you’re not sure whether you have subconjunctival hemorrhage or hyphema, don’t take any chances. See your doctor right away.

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Your doctor can diagnose subconjunctival hemorrhage just by looking at it. If you have symptoms that suggest something more, you’ll probably need a comprehensive eye exam.

Your doctor should assess any underlying issues, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

If it appears you have hyphema, your doctor may want to check the pressure in your eye or perform a CT scan to see if there’s any less visible damage.

A red spot on your eye is likely to clear up on its own within days or a few weeks. In the meantime, you can use artificial tears or a cool compress to help ease any irritation.

Vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy can be irreversible, but treatment can lower the risk of blindness by 95 percent .

  • corticosteroids injected or implanted into the eye
  • anti-VEGF injections to block the protein that triggers growth of abnormal, leaky blood vessels
  • laser surgery to reduce swelling and leakage of fluid
  • surgery to repair a detached retina, remove scar tissue, or remove the vitreous (vitrectomy)
  • overall diabetes management

If you have a red spot on your eye, but no other symptoms, you probably don’t need medical help.

  • Two weeks have gone by without improvement.
  • You have blurry or reduced vision.
  • You have eye discharge.
  • Your eye is swollen or hurts even though you have no apparent injury.
  • You think you may have something in your eye.
  • You also have an unusual headache.
  • You have diabetes or another condition that can affect the eyes.
  • Red spots on your eyes occur frequently and for no obvious reason.

If you have diabetes, have a full eye exam at least once a year and report any new or worsening symptoms right away.

Red spots on the eye are not usually serious. It doesn’t generally need any treatment. You may notice changes to the color and size of the spot as it heals, which should be within a week or two.

It can be surprising to see a red spot on your eye, but it’s probably just a harmless subconjunctival hemorrhage that doesn’t require treatment.

On the other hand, eye pain, discharge, diminished vision, or other symptoms could mean it’s something more serious. If that’s the case, see a doctor right away.

Last medically reviewed on June 13, 2019

How we reviewed this article:

Healthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  • Facts about diabetic eye disease. (2015).
    nei.nih.gov/health/diabetic/retinopathy
  • Hyphema. (2018).
    aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-hyphema
  • Subconjunctival hemorrhage. (2018).
    my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17713-subconjunctival-hemorrhage
  • What is a subconjunctival hemorrhage? (2017).
    aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-subconjunctival-hemorrhage

What causes a red spot on the eye?

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A red spot on the eye may look worrisome, but it is rarely a medical emergency. Usually, a red spot on the eye occurs when blood collects under the conjunctiva as a result of a subconjunctival hemorrhage.

A red spot on the eye, or subconjunctival hemorrhage, usually occurs when blood leaks between layers of the eye. It typically causes bright red patches over the white part of the eye.

These blood spots on the eye are often the result of increased blood pressure. In some cases, subconjunctival hemorrhages can appear without any identifiable cause.

In this article, learn what causes blood spots on the eyes and how to treat them.

red spots on the eye have several causes, treatments, and home remedies

The conjunctiva is the transparent membrane that covers the surface of the eye. The conjunctiva contains tiny blood vessels that can break or leak after sudden increases in pressure.

A person might not realize they have a subconjunctival hemorrhage until they look in a mirror. It does not cause other symptoms, such as pain, swelling, or vision loss.

Common causes of a red or blood spot on the eye include:

  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • vomiting
  • excess physical strain
  • injury to the eye (trauma)
  • irritation or allergic reactions
  • rubbing the eye too hard
  • infections
  • straining to go to the bathroom
  • contact lens use
  • conjunctivalchalasis (CCH)

Rare causes of subconjunctival hemorrhages include:

  • high blood pressure
  • taking a blood thinner such as aspirin or Coumadin
  • medical disorders that cause bleeding
  • diabetes
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Diabetic retinopathy

Having diabetes is a risk factor for a subconjunctival hemorrhage. However, not everyone with diabetes develops diabetic retinopathy.

Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:

  • floaters
  • blurred vision
  • reduced night vision
  • seeing colors that appear faded

People who have diabetes can reduce their risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by managing their blood sugar and blood pressure levels.

If a person is experiencing diabetic retinopathy, they may wish to consult a doctor about ways to manage underlying diabetes.

Subconjunctival hemorrhages do not usually require treatment. The healing time can vary from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the size of the spot.

People can use artificial tears to relieve irritation or dryness. Artificial tears are available in drugstores and pharmacies and online.

A doctor may prescribe antibiotic eye drops if the red spot is the result of a bacterial infection.

People should not be alarmed if the red spot changes colors from red to yellow or orange. This is a sign that the hemorrhage is healing. Like a bruise, it may slowly fade over time.

Subconjunctival hemorrhages usually heal over time without medical treatment.

However, people can try these home remedies to relieve uncomfortable symptoms and promote healing:

  • applying a warm compress to reduce irritation
  • applying a cold compress to reduce swelling
  • choosing not to wear contact lenses while the eye heals
  • using artificial tears to soothe itching and reduce dryness
  • avoiding rubbing the eyes

People should seek medical attention if an injury caused the blood in the eyeball or if they have a history of high blood pressure or a bleeding disorder.

People should also seek medical attention if they experience the following symptoms in addition to the red spot:

  • pain in the affected eye
  • a headache
  • discharge from the eye
  • bleeding in both eyes
  • changes in vision
  • bleeding gums
  • bruising around the eye
  • multiple subconjunctival hemorrhages

Having multiple subconjunctival hemorrhages might indicate a different underlying medical condition, such as conjunctival amyloidosis.

Conjunctival amyloidosis is a rare eye disorder that causes pink or yellow lesions on the eye or inside the eyelid. It occurs when protein accumulates inside organs and other tissues.

Conjunctival amyloidosis typically stays within the eye and does not involve other organs or tissues.

It is not always possible to prevent blood spots on the white of the eye. Some causes of subconjunctival hemorrhage are largely unavoidable.

However, a person can take steps to reduce the risk of getting blood on the white of the eye. These include:

  • Practicing diabetes care: People with any type of diabetes (type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes) are at increased risk of developing these blood spots in the eye. A person with diabetes can lower their risk by managing their condition, including by keeping blood sugar levels in a healthy range.
  • Managing blood pressure: High blood pressure can increase a person’s risk of broken blood vessels in the eye. A person should follow their doctor’s instructions for medication and lifestyle changes to keep blood pressure in a healthy range.
  • Wearing protective eyewear: People who engage in sports or activities that may involve flying objects or debris should wear protective glasses or headgear to protect their eyes from injury or irritation.
  • Asking about a bleeding disorder: If the blood spots on the eye are occurring regularly, a person should talk with their doctor about the possibility of a bleeding disorder. Such disorders could increase the risk of blood leaking from the capillaries in the eye.
  • Rubbing the eye gently: Rubbing the eyes too hard can cause the blood vessels in the eye to break. If a person needs to rub their eyes, they should do so with as little pressure as possible. A person can consider using eye drops to flush the eye instead.

Although it may look alarming, a blood spot on the eye is likely to be a subconjunctival hemorrhage. Subconjunctival hemorrhages typically do not require medical treatment and will not affect a person’s vision.

People should see a doctor if they experience pain, impaired vision, or discharge coming from the eye that has the red spot.

Diabetic retinopathy may also cause a red spot on the eye. People who have diabetes can consult a doctor if they notice any changes in their vision, such as floaters or blurring.

Last medically reviewed on January 9, 2023

  • Diabetes
  • Eye Health / Blindness

How we reviewed this article:

Medical News Today has strict sourcing guidelines and draws only from peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical journals and associations. We avoid using tertiary references. We link primary sources — including studies, scientific references, and statistics — within each article and also list them in the resources section at the bottom of our articles. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  • Ando, T., et al. (2017). A case of conjunctival amyloidosis with repeated subconjunctival hemorrhage.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5343237/
  • Boyd, K. (2022). What is a subconjunctival hemorrhage?
    https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-subconjunctival-hemorrhage
  • Diabetic retinopathy. (2022).
    https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/diabetic-retinopathy
  • Doshi, R, et al. (2022). Subconjunctival hemorrhage.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551666/

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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 [BiomedCentral.com]; 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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