What Is a Vitreous Hemorrhage?

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A vitreous hemorrhage occurs when blood enters the vitreous of the eye, which is the thick, clear fluid that fills the eye and helps maintain its shape. A vitreous hemorrhage may affect your vision if it prevents light from reaching the retina, a light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye responsible for eyesight.

This article will share the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of vitreous hemorrhage.

close up of eye during exam

Isa Foltin Getty Images News / Getty Images

Vitreous Hemorrhage Symptoms

Vitreous hemorrhage can appear in many different ways. Symptoms can include unilateral floaters and/or vision loss. Some people with a mild case experience certain symptoms earlier on. These signs include:

  • Floaters
  • Haze
  • Cobwebs
  • A red hue
  • Shadows

The symptoms may be worse in the morning due to blood pooling in your eye while lying down. Vitreous hemorrhage symptoms are not usually painful, and they may happen suddenly.

Causes

A vitreous hemorrhage can have several causes. A few common causes are:

  • A broken abnormal blood vessel (caused by conditions like diabetic retinopathy)
  • A detached or torn retina
  • An eye injury
  • Bleeding elsewhere in the eye that leaks into the vitreous
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Posterior vitreous detachment (which happens when the vitreous gel gets more liquid and pulls on the retina, leading to bleeding)
  • Sickle cell disease (an inherited blood disorder)

Diagnosis

A healthcare provider specializing in conditions of the eyes, such as an ophthalmologist, will perform an eye exam. They may also ask about your medical history and whether you've had any recent accidents or injuries.

Your healthcare provider may perform additional testing to help diagnose a vitreous hemorrhage, including:

  • Blood tests: To pinpoint the cause of bleeding
  • CT scan: To show nearby bones and tissues to check for an injury
  • Dilated fundus exam: To make your pupils wider, so the eye doctor has a better view of the back of your eye
  • Ultrasound: Sound waves allow medical professionals to see pictures of your eye

Although vitreous hemorrhages typically affect just one eye, an eye doctor may also examine your second eye to help narrow down potential causes.

Depending on the findings, your eye doctor may refer you to an ophthalmologist who is a retina specialist.

Treatment

Although the bleeding may go away in a couple of months, your ophthalmologist may want you to return for occasional follow-ups to monitor bleeding.

Your provider may recommend using a few pillows to elevate your head when you sleep to minimize blood pooling in your affected eye. They may recommend avoiding heavy lifting and strenuous activity as well. You may also be advised to not take aspirin or blood thinners, which can decrease the ability of your blood to clot.

More advanced treatment for vitreous hemorrhage includes:

  • Cryotherapy or laser treatments can help stop the bleeding or to remove blood.
  • Surgery, specifically a procedure to treat vitreous hemorrhage known as a vitrectomy, is recommended when bleeding in the vitreous does not clear or if there is a lot of blood. During this procedure, the vitreous gel is removed and replaced with a saltwater solution that mimics the natural solution in the eye.

Prevention

You can't always prevent vitreous hemorrhage. However, there are a few things you can do to decrease your risk:

  • Keep your blood sugar under control if you have diabetes.
  • See an eye doctor regularly for eye exams, especially if you have diabetes or sickle cell disease.
  • Wear protective eyewear when playing sports, working with sharp tools, or shooting firearms.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you have been diagnosed with a vitreous hemorrhage, watch for any changing symptoms in the eye. Contact your provider if the symptoms are not improving.

Seek immediate medical attention if you have new vision loss or see flashes of light.

Summary

A vitreous hemorrhage is bleeding occurring in the fluid of the eye. Some causes of vitreous hemorrhage are injury and diabetic retinopathy. Treatment will vary depending on the cause and severity of the vitreous hemorrhage. Regular eye exams and the use of protective eyewear can reduce your chances of developing a vitreous hemorrhage.

A Word From Verywell

Vision changes or loss from a vitreous hemorrhage can cause fear. Always check with your healthcare provider if you have changes to your vision, have been diagnosed with a vitreous hemorrhage, and have changing symptoms in your affected eye. Diagnosis can help determine the exact cause of vitreous hemorrhage. That health condition can also be treated to prevent further complications.

5 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. Kaiser Permanente. Learning about vitreous hemorrhage.

  2. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Vitreous hemorrhage: Diagnosis and treatment.

  3. Tufts Medical Center. Vitreous hemorrhage.

  4. Kellogg Eye Center, University of Michigan. Vitreous hemorrhage.

  5. Myhealth.Alberta.ca. Learning about vitreous hemorrhage.