What Is 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
Less common causes include:
- 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.
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.