Subconjunctival Hemorrhage: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

A subconjunctival hemorrhage is painless bleeding that appears as a bright red or dark red patch on the sclera (the white portion of the eye). Since there is no pain or discomfort associated with the bleeding, these may be first apparent when looking in the mirror or may be first noticed by another person. The red patch of visible bleeding is typically the only sign or symptom.

Causes of subconjunctival hemorrhage

A subconjunctival hemorrhage (bleeding under the conjunctiva) is caused by the rupture of one of the small blood vessels in the conjunctiva, the lining tissue of the eye. Most subconjunctival hemorrhages occur without an obvious cause for the bleeding. Certain conditions can occasionally result in a spontaneous subconjunctival hemorrhage, including sneezing, coughing, straining, vomiting, eye rubbing, or inserting contact lenses. Increasing pressure in the veins of the head (such as when lying on an inversion table or weightlifting) can increase the risk for subconjunctival hemorrhage. Other causes can include infections of the conjunctiva or medical conditions that cause bleeding or prevent normal blood clotting. Trauma to the head or eye can also result in subconjunctival hemorrhage.

REFERENCE:

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/26/2017

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