You were having a great day until someone looked at you and said “Oh my god! Your eye is bleeding!” You head to the mirror and you are taken back at what you see. Your eye wasn’t bothering you but you are stunned to see the normally white part of you eye is bright red. You can’t recall anything happening to your eye, it doesn’t hurt and your vision seems to be fine as well. The good news is that this is typically something that looks way worse than what it really is. This frightfully appearing condition is most likely to be diagnosed as a subconjunctival hemorrhage, a broken blood vessel.
When a tiny blood vessel breaks just underneath the clear cellophane like layer of your eye (conjunctiva), the trapped blood spreads out quickly, leaving you with a grossly red eye. This is the equivalent of a broken blood vessel under your skin (a bruise) and similarly will take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks to totally resolve. It may also change colors, just like a bruise, as the blood is being absorbed back into the body. Although this is mostly a very benign and self-limiting condition, it is best to let an expert make sure. It is extremely important to identify the cause, and monitor for resolution and recurrence.
Subconjunctival hemorrhage often occurs without any injury to the eye. Some common causes include, strenuous exercising, coughing, sneezing, eye rubbing, extreme g-forces, vomiting, straining, and even excessive alcohol intoxication. A more severe cause is high blood pressure. Blood thinning agents such as aspirin, ginger, capsaicin, ginseng, garlic, aspirin, or Herba can make you more prone and also inhibit absorption.
No specific treatment is needed for a subconjunctival hemorrhage, however I will often prescribe some lubricating/moisturizing eye drops and hot/cold compress to help alleviate any general discomfort and to help the absorption of the blood.
If you have recurrent subconjunctival hemorrhages or other bleeding, talk to your doctor. Be sure to tell your doctor about any medications or supplements you take. A full blood work up may be necessary.