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What is an Eye Hemorrhage?

A subconjunctival hemorrhage (eye hemorrhage) is when one or more blood spots appear on the white of your eye. It often occurs without any obvious harm to your eye - it's like having a bruise on your skin. A subconjunctival hemorrhage may look alarming, but it's usually a harmless condition that disappears within two weeks or so.

The eye’s clear surface (conjunctiva) contains a lot of tiny blood vessels that can break. The bleeding is the bright red spot that you see on the white of your eye. The red spot may grow over a 24 to 48-hour time period. Then it will slowly turn yellow as your eye absorbs the blood.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage Causes

Woman getting an eye examThese hemorrhages often happen when your blood pressure spikes because of:

  • Strong sneezing
  • Straining
  • Powerful coughing
  • Vomiting

Some red spots result from an injury or illness, such as:

  • Roughly rubbing your eye
  • Injury, like having something stuck in your eye
  • Contact lenses
  • Viral infection
  • Surgery

Less common causes include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Medicines that make you bleed easily, such as aspirin or blood thinners 


Woman getting eye dropsA subconjunctival hemorrhage should heal on its own without treatment. Depending on how big your spot is, this may take a few days or a few weeks.

If your eye feels irritated, you may use artificial tears.

Call your eye doctor if the blood doesn’t go away in two to three weeks, if you have pain or vision problems, or if the blood is anywhere inside the colored part of your eye (iris).

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage Prevention

If you need to rub your eye, do it gently. If you wear contact lenses, clean and disinfect them regularly. Wear protective gear when you’re playing sports or doing activities that could cause an eye injury.

A subconjunctival hemorrhage will usually go away without causing any vision problems. It happens again about 10% of the time in most people, or more often in those who take medications such as blood thinners.

The Eye Institute (TEI) offers a variety of diagnostic and treatment services including emergency care for eye injuries that require immediate attention. To schedule an appointment at The Eye Institute, call 215.276.6111.