Eye Bleeding: What You Need to Know
Eye bleeding typically means bleeding or a broken blood vessel below the outer surface of the eye. The entire white part of your eye may look red or bloodshot, or you may have spots or areas of red in the eye. Another less common kind of eye bleeding, or hemorrhage, can happen in the middle, colored part of your eye. Eye bleeding deeper or at the back of the eye may sometimes cause redness. Bleeding in the eye can happen for several reasons. Most of the time, you will not have blood leaking from your eye. Depending on the location in the eye, bleeding can be harmless or it may lead to complications if left untreated. You should see a doctor if you think you may have eye bleeding.
Types of eye bleeding
There are three main types of eye bleeding.
The clear outer surface of your eye is called the conjunctiva. It covers the white part of your eye. The conjunctiva has tiny, delicate blood vessels that you normally can’t see. A subconjunctival hemorrhage happens when a blood vessel leaks or breaks just under the conjunctiva. When this happens, blood gets trapped in the blood vessel or between the conjunctiva and white part or your eye. Eye bleeding makes the blood vessel very visible or causes a red patch on your eye. This kind of eye bleeding is common. It usually doesn’t cause pain or affect your vision. You’ll likely not need treatment for a subconjunctival hemorrhage. It’s usually harmless and clears up in about a week.
Symptoms of subconjunctival hemorrhage include:
- redness on the white part of the eye
- eye is irritated or feels scratched
- feeling of fullness in the eye
A hyphema is bleeding on the iris and pupil, which are the round colored and black part of the eye. It happens when blood collects between the iris and pupil and cornea. The cornea is the clear dome covering of the eye that resembles a built-in contact lens. A hyphema usually happens when there’s damage to or a tear in the iris or pupil. This kind of eye bleeding is less common and can affect your vision. Hyphema can partly or completely block sight. If left untreated, this eye injury can cause permanent loss of vision. The main difference between a hyphema and subconjunctival hemorrhage is that a hyphema is usually painful.
Symptoms of hyphema include:
- eye pain
- visible blood in front of the iris, pupil, or both
- blood may not be noticeable if the hyphema is very small
- blurry or blocked vision
- cloudiness in eye
- sensitivity to light
How is eye bleeding diagnosed?
An optometrist or ophthalmologist can look at your eye to find out what kind of eye bleeding you have.
You might need other tests such as:
- pupil dilation using eye drops to open up the pupil
- ultrasound scan to see inside and the back of the eye
- CT scan to look for injury around the eye
- blood test to check for any underlying condition that might cause eye complications
- blood pressure test
When to see your doctor
See your doctor if you have any type of eye bleeding or other eye symptoms. Never ignore changes to your eyes or vision. It’s always best to have your eyes checked. Even minor eye infections can get worse or cause complications if they’re not treated.
What is the treatment for eye bleeding?
Treatment for eye bleeding depends on the cause. Subconjunctival hemorrhages are usually not serious and heal without treatment.
If you have an underlying condition, such as high blood pressure, your doctor will prescribe treatment to manage it.
Hyphemas and more serious eye bleeding may need direct treatment. Your doctor may prescribe eye drops as needed for eye bleeding:
- supplementary tear drops for dry eyes
- steroid eye drops for swelling
- numbing eye drops for pain
- antibiotic eye drops for bacterial infection
- antiviral eye drops for viral infection
- laser surgery to repair blood vessels
- eye surgery to drain excess blood
- tear duct surgery
You may need to wear a special shield or eye patch to protect your eye while the eye bleeding heals.
See your eye doctor to check the eye bleeding and your eye health. They’ll likely measure your eye pressure also. High eye pressure can lead to other eye conditions like glaucoma.
What you can do at home
If you wear contact lenses, take them out. Don’t wear contact lenses until your eye doctor says it’s safe to do so. There are several things you can do at home to help your eye bleeding:
- take your eye drops or other medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor
- check your blood pressure regularly with an at-home monitor
- get plenty of rest
- prop your head up on pillow to help your eye drain
- avoid too much physical activity
- get regular eye and vision check-ups
- clean and replace contact lenses often
- avoid sleeping with contact lenses on