Subconjunctival Haemorrhages are relatively common. They appear as red, blood spots on the surface of the eye. Here are 5 key points about subconjunctival haemorrhage:
- Bruising of the conjunctiva
- Usually caused by injury to the eye
- Doesn’t affect vision
- Usually self-limiting
- Hypertension can cause it
What is a subconjunctival haemorrhage?
The conjunctiva is the clear skin over the white part of the eye. It contains small blood vessels called capillaries. When a capillary breaks, the blood leaks out into the space between the conjunctiva and the sclera underneath. So, this causes a red area on the eye. It’s a bit like a bruise, but because the skin over the eye is transparent, it looks a lot like blood.
Causes of subconjunctival haemorrhage
An initial presentation is usually from an injury such as poking or rubbing the eye too hard. Blood thinning medications can increase your risk of experiencing a subconjunctival bleed.
Straining, such as severe coughing, lifting heavy weights, or suction (such as removing dive masks and swimming goggles) can also be associated with subconjunctival haemorrhage. Recurrent bleeds can indicate an underlying condition. For example, high blood pressure (hypertension) may be a possible cause.
The area is visibly red (similar to a blood spot), and can feel swollen and tender to touch. Importantly, vision is not affected. Severe cases can affect the whole white of the eye. However, normally only a small area of the eye is affected.
Symptoms and history are normally diagnostic. However, an Optometrist will examine the subconjunctival haemorrhage with a microscope. They are able to determine if the bruising is contained and healing normally.
A subconjunctival haemorrhage is usually self-limiting within 2 weeks. It will often drop with gravity over time and fade to a yellowish colour before disappearing. Chilled artificial tears can help relieve any discomfort. Recurrenty haemorrhages may require treatment for an underlying condition such as hypertension.
Reducing your risk
On it’s own, there’s not much to worry about. Although, you can avoid bumps and be more gentle on your eyes. Furthermore, if you are getting recurrent subconjunctival haemorrhages, it is best to consult with your general practitioner doctor to rule out other causes or adjust any medications.