What is a Subconjunctival Hemorrhage?
The conjunctiva is the clear membrane that covers or lies over top of the white portion of the eye called the sclera. It protects and contains many of the lubricating or tear film producing cells of the eye. It also contains many small rather fragile blood vessels that you see covering the white part of the eye (sclera). A rupture of one of these small fragile blood vessels or capillaries results in bleeding into and under the conjunctival layer. This appears many times as a bright red area on the white part of the eye.
What Causes a Subconjunctival Hemorrhage?
The most common cause of a subconjunctival hemorrhage is the simple rubbing of the eye. Rubbing mechanically distorts the conjunctiva, breaking open one of the fragile blood vessels.
Raising the pressure inside the eye and conjunctival vessels by lifting heavy objects, coughing, sneezing, or straining during a bowel movement can cause a subconjunctival hemorrhage.
People who take blood thinners such as aspirin, Plavix®, or Coumadin® tend to have subconjunctival hemorrhages more often and larger based on the type of blood thinner taken.
Symptoms of Subconjunctival Hemorrhage
Most of the time there are no symptoms associated with a subconjunctival hemorrhage. Some people complain of a sudden sharp pain when the subconjunctival hemorrhage begins. On a very rare occasion (especially with taking Coumadin®) the hemorrhage can be large enough to cause the cornea to dry out next to where the hemorrhage has occurred. This is due to the conjunctiva elevation next to the cornea and the tears have trouble getting into that area.
Treatment of Subconjunctival Hemorrhage
Many people are alarmed with the sudden onset of this common problem, even though it is not associated with any disease that causes vision loss. When the hemorrhage is large enough to cause the cornea to dry out, frequent artificial tears may be necessary until the hemorrhage begins to resolve. Otherwise, no treatment is needed. The hemorrhage tends to fade over the following one to three weeks. Subconjunctival hemorrhages will go away on their own and be only a cosmetic problem. It would be wise to have your blood pressure checked to make sure that an elevated blood pressure has not contributed to developing the hemorrhage.