Subconjunctival Hemorrhage (eye bruise)

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Most of us are familiar with bruises, which are areas of discoloration on our skin from underneath blood vessels that have ruptured or broken. A subconjunctival hemorrhage occurs when a tiny blood vessel breaks just under the clear surface of your eye. The blood becomes trapped underneath the clear conjunctiva, in front of the white colored sclera. This large, red, pool of blood can look scary, but is usually harmless and disappears within two weeks or so. 

Vision is not affected, and you should not feel pain. Some people are unaware it has even happened until someone else notices or they look in the mirror. You may experience minor irritation to the outside of the eye, just like how sometimes a bruise on the skin can itch. We recommend using a lubricating artificial tear drop as your eye recovers to help with discomfort if you’re experiencing any.  

Subconjunctival hemorrhages can be caused by: 

  • Violent coughing, sneezing, vomiting, or straining 
  • Injury or trauma, including roughly rubbing your eye 
  • Contact lens usage 
  • Intravitreal eye injections 
  • Eye surgery 

Most often the only treatment is time to let the body heal itself and absorb the blood. The conjunctiva can’t clear blood quickly and this process takes longer than a bruise on your arm, for instance. You may be at higher risk to get subconjunctival hemorrhages if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or are on a blood thinning medication like aspirin or Coumadin. If you get multiple subconjunctival hemorrhages or you get them often, it’s best to consult your PCP or cardiologist to see if a medicine may be contributing to their cause. If the eye looks inflamed and has discharge, this is a sign of an eye infection. This is more serious and warrants a call to our office at (616) 954-2020.