Subconjunctival Hemorrhage (Broken Blood Vessels in the Eye)

Updated on June 16, 2017
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Edmund has spent the last ten years working in clinical research. He has written many articles on human anatomy and physiology.

Picture of a subconjunctival hemorrhage
Picture of a subconjunctival hemorrhage | Source

A broken blood vessel in the eye is not always caused by trauma. Sometimes, a sneeze or a cough is enough to break blood vessels inside the eyeball, resulting to bleeding on the white part of the eye—the sclera.

When the bleeding is caused by a simple sneeze, there is a good chance the victim will not be aware of the bleeding until someone else points it out. The victim would then rush to the nearest mirror to see the big red spot that has suddenly appeared on his or her sclera.

The bleeding from ruptured blood vessels (tiny blood vessels called capillaries) underneath the thin layer (called conjunctiva) that lines the surface of the eyeball. The broken blood vessel in the conjunctiva releases a drop of blood, which can spread to a broader area in the eye.

Subconjunctival hemorrhage is the medical term for this type of broken blood vessels in the eye. This condition is usually accompanied by heavy, teary eye or discomfort when blinking, but it is usually painless.

Common Causes of Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

The most common causes of broken blood vessels in the eye include the following:

  • trauma
  • sneezing
  • coughing forcefully
  • vomiting
  • heavy lifting
  • certain athletic maneuvers

Blood capillaries have thin walls which makes it possible for them to supply surrounding tissues with oxygen and nutrients and to get rid of metabolic wastes. Besides direct trauma or physical injury, any activity that causes a sudden and significant rise in pressure inside a blood capillary can result to a rupture of the blood capillary.

Factors that can increase the risk and frequency of subconjunctival hemorrhage include age, rubbing of the eye, blood thinning medications, blood thinning herbs, high blood pressure or high vascular pressure, clotting disorder, valsalva maneuver, weak blood vessels.

The Healing Time of Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

A subconjunctival hemorrhage usually heals on its own without any treatment. The healing time can range from several days to a few weeks. During the healing process, the blood spot is gradually broken down, absorbed and transported away from the eye. This allows the redness of the sclera to gradually fade away with time.

Day 1 to 5 of the Healing Process

Day 1 of the healing process
Day 1 of the healing process
Day 2 of the healing process
Day 2 of the healing process
Day 3 of the healing process
Day 3 of the healing process
Day 4 of the healing process
Day 4 of the healing process
Day 5 of the healing process
Day 5 of the healing process | Source

The time it takes for the eye to completely absorb the blood spot depends to a large extent on the size of the spot. As you would expect, more severe hemorrhage requires a longer time to heal.

Below is an example of a healing process of a more severe hemorrhage that reportedly took approximately 27 days for the eye to completely clear the blood spot from the sclera.

If you do not notice any improvement of the hemorrhage with time, then you definitely need an examination from an eye care provider. Also contact an eye care provider if the ruptured blood vessels in your eye affect your vision, if you experience any pain or swelling, if the broken blood vessels in your eye are due to physical trauma or if you have any worries at all.

There are many other structures in the eye that can bleed, these should not be confused with subconjunctival hemorrhage. Remember, It is better to be safe than sorry!

Broken Blood Vessels in the Eye, explained by Dr. Oller C.

Poll: Find your blind Spot!

Now that we've rounded off, let's have some fun with your eyes.

We all have one blind spot at the back of each eye. I have created the images below so that we can all check it out for ourselves. Take this fun test and provide your input below.

Instructions

  1. Take position in front of your computer with your nose mid way between the cross and the black star.
  2. Close your left eye and stare at the cross with your right eye.
  3. While staring at the cross with your right eye (maintain contact), slowly move your head towards the computer screen. Also (at the same time) keep the black star in your peripheral vision.
  4. At the right distance approximately 7 - 12 inches from your screen, the black star will disappear. That is the blind spot of your right eye! This point perfectly coincides with the blind spot of the right eye.

Now try the other eye. Repeat the 4 steps above again; make sure you position yourself in front of your computer with your nose mid way between the cross and the black star. This time close your right eye and stare at the black star with your left eye. While staring at the black star with your left eye, slowly move your head towards the computer screen. At some point closer to your screen the cross will vanish. This is the blind spot of your left eye!

Did you find your blind spots?

See results

If you didn't find your blind spot, you either didn't do it right or you have a very special set of eyes. The key to finding your blind spot here is to constantly stare at the cross with your right eye and not break contact while simultaneously keeping the black star in your peripheral vision. Maybe you should give it another go.

Comments

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    • profile image

      ayen 

      7 months ago

      my brother have experience some red spot in his eye i am scared that it will last long?

    • profile image

      Cho 

      2 years ago

      Can it be cuased by looking at a screen for to long

    • anatomynotes profile imageAUTHOR

      Edmund Custers 

      3 years ago

      Hi Hazel, to be sure, you should better check with your GP. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

    • profile image

      Hazel 

      3 years ago

      is't sign of a somthing serious? i'm scared

    • anatomynotes profile imageAUTHOR

      Edmund Custers 

      4 years ago

      Tony, it usually clears gradually. Sometimes I don't even notice it until someone else points it out. Thanks for stopping by and contributing.

    • profile image

      Tony phylactou 

      4 years ago

      I had it several times and it usually goes within 12 days.It clears outside first and closer to the eyeball last.The only

      precaution you take is not to have a hot bath because your blood pressure goes up and worsens the problem,and to

      avoid alcohol for the same reason.

    • anatomynotes profile imageAUTHOR

      Edmund Custers 

      5 years ago

      Conservative Lady, thank you for your comment.

    • Conservative Lady profile image

      Sheila 

      5 years ago from Surprise Arizona - formerly resided in Washington State

      Very interesting hub. When I was in Nursing School my lab partner was having trouble learning how to correctly take a blood pressure so I let her practice on me. For a good hour she squeezed my arm tight with the BP cuff and tried to hear my BP - when we finished I had bilateral (both eyes) with very obvious subconjunctival hemorrhages. Lesson learned and by the way my lab partner transferred out of Nursing soon after.

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