Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

The conjunctiva is the thin, moist, transparent membrane that covers the white part of the eye (called the sclera). The conjunctiva is the outermost protective coating of the eyeball. The conjunctiva contains nerves and many small blood vessels. These blood vessels are usually barely visible but if inflamed these vessels will be larger and more visible. These blood vessels are somewhat fragile, and their walls may break resulting in a subconjuctival hemorrhage (bleeding under the conjunctiva).

Generally a subconjunctival hemorrhage occurs spontaneously and will appear as if the blood is trapped in and around the white of the eye. Often the blood may start in a small area on the white of the eye, it may spread and include the entire white of the eye. Since the blood is trapped between two layers of tissue (like a bruise) your body has to absorb it. It may take as much as 10 – 14 days for the hemorrhage to completely dissolve and the hemorrhage may look worse before better.

Often, a person discovers a subconjunctival hemorrhage when looking in the mirror or by another person seeing the red spot on your eye.

The following can occasionally result in spontaneous subconjunctival hemorrhage: 

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing 
  • Straining/vomiting 
  • Eye rubbing 
  • Trauma 
  • High Blood Pressure 
  • Bleeding Disorder (a medical disorder causing bleeding or inhibiting normal clotting)

When the bleeding first occurs, you may experience a sense of fullness in the eye or under the lid. Your vision will not be affected unless the hemorrhage is due to trauma or involving bleeding on the inside of the eye.

When to seek medical care:

Call your eye doctor if the subconjunctival hemorrhage is not better within two weeks or if you have multiple subconjunctival hemorrhages.

If you have a hemorrhage in both eyes at the same time or the subconjunctival hemorrhage coincides with other bleeding, including easy bruising, bleeding gums or both.

Seek immediate attention from your eye doctor or emergency department if your subconjunctival hemorrhage is associated with any of the following: 

  • Pain associated with the hemorrhage
  • Changes in your vision ( blurry vision, double vision, difficulty seeing) 
  • History of a bleeding disorder 
  • History of high blood pressure 
  • Injury from trauma to the eye

The following WK Eye Institute doctors treat this condition: