Blood in the Eye: What Is a Subconjunctival Hemorrhage?

When to be concerned about a popped blood vessel in the eye

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A subconjunctival hemorrhage is another term for blood in the eye. Bleeding inside the eye can result in a speck of redness or a large area of red blood. The hemorrhage looks like a patch of bright, red blood on the white part of your eye.

While waking up to a bleeding eye can be scary, a subconjunctival hemorrhage is usually harmless. The visible blood typically results from a popped blood vessel in the eye.

In this article, you'll learn what can cause blood in your eye, symptoms to pay attention to, and ways to treat it.

Symptoms of Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

The sclera (white part of your eye) is covered by a thin, clear tissue called the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva also lines the inside of your eyelid and houses a network of small, thin blood vessels.

These small blood vessels are fragile and can easily pop or break. The popped blood vessel in your eye will then cause blood to leak out and settle between the conjunctiva and the sclera.

If the leak is small, a part of your eye may be slightly or even bright red, as seen in this picture of a relatively minor subconjunctival hemorrhage.

Subconjunctival hemorrhage affecting a portion of an eye

apomares / Getty Images

But if the leak is large enough, the entire white part of your eye may look blood-red, as in this picture of a more substantial subconjunctival hemorrhage. In some cases, the eye may bulge outward.

Close-up of eye with subconjunctival hemorrhage

turk_stock_photographer / Getty Images

When to Be Concerned About Bleeding in the Eye

Call your doctor if you:

  • Notice the subconjunctival hemorrhage lasts more than three weeks
  • Have eye pain
  • Experience vision loss
  • Have a history of eye injury or recurring subconjunctival hemorrhage

Causes of Blood in the Eye

Causes of a bleeding eye
Illustration by Nusha Ashjaee, Verywell

An eye injury usually causes bleeding of the eye. Less common but serious causes of eye bleeds include:

Small amounts of bleeding in thee ye can result from forcefully sneezing or coughing. Other risk factors are high blood pressure and taking certain medications that alter the way your blood clots.

A subconjunctival hemorrhage can be caused by:

  • Trauma
  • Hard coughing
  • Hard sneezing
  • Vomiting
  • Heavy lifting
  • Forceful hand rubbing of the eye
  • Strain caused by constipation
  • Various eye infections

Occasionally, a subconjunctival hemorrhage can be a warning sign for one of the following related conditions:

Get a complete physical if you have a subconjunctival hemorrhage more than twice in one year so you can ensure you don't have an underlying medical condition.

Diagnosis

Schedule an eye exam if you're concerned about blood in your eye. During the eye exam, the optometrist or ophthalmologist (eye doctor) will:

  • Complete a careful medical history to rule out potential causes of the hemorrhage
  • Examine your eyes to ensure the eye is intact
  • Check that other injuries haven't occurred to other structures of the eye
  • Measure your eye pressure
  • Dilate your eyes so they can look inside and ensure there's no trauma or bleeding deep inside the eye

It's important to have your optometrist or ophthalmologist examine the hemorrhage to identify a cause and rule out other possible health conditions.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage Treatment

Try to remain calm if you suddenly notice blood inside your eye. Visible blood in your eye due to subconjunctival hemorrhage will be slowly reabsorbed by your body. Most cases resolve within seven days without treatment.

However, a large subconjunctival hemorrhage can take up to three weeks to go away. The redness may turn to a brown color, then yellow, and then white again. The blood will not stain your eye.

You may apply over-the-counter artificial tears to reduce any scratchiness.

A Word From Verywell

Even though the appearance of blood in your eye can be disturbing, it's usually no cause for alarm, especially if you don't have any pain or vision changes.

Many people arrive at their doctor's office with a subconjunctival hemorrhage without recalling any trauma, circumstance, or underlying medical problem. In many cases, the popped blood vessel in the eye is caused by a blow to the eye with a hand in the middle of the night while sleeping.

However, if you experience a subconjunctival hemorrhage more than twice in one year, that may cause concern, and you should get a full medical checkup.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the fastest way to get rid of a subconjunctival hemorrhage?

    It usually resolves on its own, but you can use warm compresses to speed up the process.

  • How long do popped blood vessels last?

    Usually between five to 10 days.

  • Can you go blind from popping a blood vessel?

    In most cases, no. A popped blood vessel is usually harmless.

    However, sometimes an underlying condition like diabetes or high blood pressure can affect the blood vessels in your eye. If untreated, they can increase the risk of going blind.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Tarlan B, Kiratli H. Subconjunctival hemorrhage: risk factors and potential indicators. Clin Ophthalmol. 2013;7:1163-70. doi:10.2147/OPTH.S35062

  2. Cedars-Sinai Health Library. Subconjunctival hemorrhage.

  3. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Home remedies for bloodshot eyes.

  4. American Academy of Ophthalmology. How can I make a broken blood vessel in my eye heal faster?.

  5. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Is broken blood vessel in the eye harmless?.

  6. National Eye Institute. Diabetic retinopathy.

Additional Reading
  • Catania, Louis J. Primary Care of the Anterior Segment, Second Edition. Appleton and Lange, 1995.