Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

September 22, 2022

Picture of an eye with blood on top of the white sclera

When a subconjunctival hemorrhage occurs, the eye might appear like it is bleeding, and it can look worse than it really is. Keep reading to learn more about this common diagnosis caused by a broken blood vessel.


What is a subconjunctival hemorrhage?Picture of an eye with blood on top of the white sclera

On top of the sclera, or white part of the eye, there is a network of tiny blood vessels, which is covered by a clear layer called the conjunctiva. If there is a broken blood vessel under the conjunctiva, the blood disperses. A similar analogy is putting a small spot of water on a table, then covering it with a layer of plastic wrap. Imagine how the water would spread out under the plastic wrap; This is very similar to how the eye appears to be bleeding with a subconjunctival hemorrhage. The red spot might start out small, then gradually get bigger as the trapped blood spreads below the conjunctiva.


What causes a subconjunctival hemorrhage?

A subconjunctival hemorrhage can randomly or spontaneously occur without any particular reason. Other causes include the following:

– Rubbing eyes too hard
– Trauma or eye surgery (cataract or LASIK)
– Straining (hard coughing, sneezing, vomiting, constipation, heavy lifting)

In rare situations, recurrent subconjunctival hemorrhages can be a sign of a blood clotting disorder.


What are the symptoms of a subconjunctival hemorrhage?

Typically, there are little to no symptoms associated with a subconjunctival hemorrhage. Some individuals may experience mild irritation or scratchiness when blinking. Most people don’t even realize they have a subconjunctival hemorrhage until they look in the mirror or someone else asks about it.


What is the treatment of a subconjunctival hemorrhage?

Just like a bruise on the skin, there is no treatment for a subconjunctival hemorrhage. Similarly, the blood can turn different shades of red and even yellowish when getting reabsorbed into the body. It usually takes about two weeks to fully resolve on its own.

For those experiencing mild irritation, artificial tears can be used to help decrease the amount of friction between the upper eyelid and conjunctiva during a blink.

The use of blood thinners can worsen the bleeding. It is important to not stop taking these medication if a subconjunctival hemorrhage occurs.