When it comes to our eyes, an appearance of a red spot against the stark, white background of our sclera can stick out like a sore thumb. While an affected eye can go completely undetected until a mirror or bystander calls attention to it, reactions usually include panic. About 90% of the time, this alarming red spot is the result of a broken blood vessel called a subconjunctival hemorrhage.
The conjunctiva is the clear, thin membrane covering the white part of the eye—the sclera—and the insides of the eyelids. Within the conjunctiva’s make up are tiny nerves and blood vessels that are barely visible, yet extremely fragile. When these blood vessels become disrupted or injured, bleeding will occur between the conjunctiva and the sclera. Blood is then trapped under the conjunctiva due to its slow absorption rate, creating a red mark on the white part of our eye.
Most of the time a subconjunctival hemorrhage can occur spontaneously from arbitrary actions involving coughing, sneezing, vomiting, bending over, straining from lifting something heavy, or aggressive eye rubbing (it’s paramount that you buy contact lenses are comfortable so you aren’t consistently readjusting with your fingers).
Less spontaneous causes of a subconjunctival hemorrhage can occur in people with high blood pressure or in those who take blood thinners. This condition can also be a result of a severe eye infection, head trauma, blood-clotting disorder, or eyelid surgery. If subconjunctival hemorrhages occur frequently, it could be due to a larger health issue. Often this can mean a serious bleeding disorder, and a doctor should be notified immediately.
Most of the time there are very little symptoms associated with this condition. While physically it may look painful, a hemorrhage in the eye is quite benign. It does not induce any pain, will not cause sensitivity to light, and won’t hinder your vision. Slight discomfort or itchiness may occur, but this could simply be from an over mindfulness of its existence.
A broken blood vessel might look gruesome during the first day or two, but gradually the redness will subside. There are no specific treatments for a subconjunctival hemorrhage, just patience. A broken blood vessel will heal naturally, but a doctor should be informed to make sure there isn’t any threatening health causes.
The onset of a subconjunctival hemorrhage can be entirely unpredictable. Most of the time the condition is completely harmless, with the only symptom being a gruesome red spot on the white of the eye. It is important to watch the progression of the hemorrhage to make sure it does not get any worse. As the windows to our health, our eyes’ own health is of upmost importance.