Causes of a Red Spot on Eye


Your eyes are some of the most vulnerable parts of your body. Finding a red spot on your eye can be very alarming, especially when you don't know what caused it. Red spots on the eye are called subconjunctival hemorrhage, which is basically bleeding in the eye. Most of the time, subconjuntival hemorrhage happens spontaneously. Subconjunctival hemorrhages are painless and usually harmless, and does not cause any light sensitivity or vision loss. They are very common and will usually clear up in about a week.


What Exactly Is Subconjunctival Hemorrhage?

The white part of the eye is known as the sclera. The sclera contains tiny blood vessels all over. There is a clear coating that protects the sclera called the conjunctiva. Subconjuntival hemorrhage occurs when there is some type of trauma to the sclera, causing the tiny blood vessels to rupture. The blood gets trapped under the conjunctiva causing the red spot on the eye. The spots are usually small, but sometimes can be very large, and in rare cases, cover all or most of the sclera.

According to Martha A. Simpson, Associate Professor of Family Medicine at Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine, the meaning of the term subconjunctiva hemorrhage is:

"The white area of the eye is covered by a delicate, transparent membrane known as the conjunctiva. Since the small blood vessels that break open and bleed in this condition are located underneath this conjunctiva, the word “sub” is used to connote “below.” Hemorrhage means the escape of blood from a vessel. Hence, the two terms together -- subconjunctival hemorrhage -- mean bleeding below the conjuctiva."1

What causes Subconjunctival Hemorrhage?

Most cases of subconjunctival hemorrhage are spontaneous and comes from a random event such as sneezing or coughing. It can also be caused by more serious, non-spontaneous events also. Some of the spontaneous causes are:

  • sneezing
  • straining from lifting something heavy or from constipation
  • coughing
  • rubbing the eye to hard
  • vomiting
  • high dosage of blood thinners
  • high blood pressure

Some of the non-spontaneous events are:

  • eye injury
  • eye infection
  • eye surgery (or eyelid surgery)
  • other purposeful trauma to the eye

Since subconjunctival hemorrhages are usually painless, most people won't realize that it has happened until someone tells them or until they look in a mirror.

Treatment of Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

Medical treatment is usually not necessary for subconjunctival hemorrhage. If you are concerned, you can get your eye doctor to do a routine exam. A doctor will usually give you a routine exam to make sure there aren't any underlying causes, then may possibly recommend a cool compress until it goes away. However, if you feel pain, experience loss of vision, your eye swells, your eye is discharging fluid/liquid, you see blood on your pupil, or you are constantly tearing up/crying, you may have an underlying cause for the red spot. Your doctor will be able to determine if it is a minor cause or something worse.

It usually takes about a week for subconjunctival hemorrhage to clear. If the spot is large, it will take a little longer. Don't take asprin while you have subconjunctival hemorrhage because it can make the bleeding worse. During the healing process, the spot can change colors just as a bruise on your skin would. It can go from red, to brown, to purple, to yellow. If your eye feels a bit irritated, you can use artificial tears to help ease it. If your eye doesn't return to normal after about two to three weeks or you have other bleeding or bruising elsewhere on your body, see a doctor immediately.

Finding a red spot on your eye (subconjunctival hemorrhage) can be very alarming but it is usually not serious and will go away on it's own. There are many causes of subconjunctival hemorrage and most of them are simple things that can happen such as coughing, sneezing, or straining too hard. Subconjuntival hemorrhage is a common occurrence, and if this ever happens to your eye, you can be assured that your eye will be okay.




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