Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

  • Medical Author:
    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, FACS

    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist. Dr. Dahl's educational background includes a BA with Honors and Distinction from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, and an MD from Cornell University, where he was selected for Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society. He had an internal medical internship at the New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage Vs. Pinkeye

Bright redness of the whites of the eyes can also occur when the tiny blood vessels covering the whites of the eyes rupture from trauma or changes in pressure within the head (for example, after forceful laughing or vomiting, when diving under water, or even bending upside down). While it is similar, this condition is called subconjunctival hemorrhage, and while it can appear frightening, it is generally harmless. This condition is different from the inflammation of the conjunctiva seen with pinkeye.

Subconjunctival hemorrhage facts

  • The conjunctiva is the thin tissue that covers the sclera. It is the outermost protective coating of the eyeball.
  • The small blood vessels within the conjunctiva may break spontaneously or from injury, causing a red area on the sclera, resulting in a subconjunctival hemorrhage.
  • A subconjunctival hemorrhage appears as a bright red or dark red patch on the white of the eye.
  • There are usually no symptoms associated with a subconjunctival hemorrhage.
  • A subconjunctival hemorrhage is often first noticed by looking in the mirror or from another person saying that one's eye looks red.
  • Diagnosis is made on the basis of the appearance of the hemorrhage and the absence of other findings.
  • Most subconjunctival hemorrhages clear without treatment in one to two weeks.

What is a subconjunctival hemorrhage?

The conjunctiva is the clear tissue that covers the white of the eye (the sclera) and lines the inside of both eyelids. A subconjunctival hemorrhage is blood that is located between the conjunctiva and the underlying sclera.

What are the risk factors for subconjunctival hemorrhage?

Most subconjunctival hemorrhages are spontaneous and not linked to any specific risk factors. If the hemorrhage is not spontaneous, then the risk factors for subconjunctival hemorrhage include trauma to the eye, eye surgery, the use of contact lenses, the use of medication that inhibits clotting or promotes bleeding, and diseases that are characterized by decreases in platelet count or vascular fragility. Because of the association between increasing vascular fragility and advanced age, being older also includes an increased risk of subconjunctival hemorrhage.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/16/2016

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