Possible Causes of a Red Spot on Your Eye

It is normal to be concerned when you find a red spot on your eye. You may wonder if you are bleeding and what could have caused it.

This article will discuss some of the common causes of red spots on the eye. It will also help you decide when to see a healthcare provider.

causes of red spots on the eye
Verywell / Emily Roberts

The Most Common Cause of a Red Spot

A red spot on the eye is often a small blood vessel that burst open during the night. This is called a subconjunctival hemorrhage.

There are small blood vessels underneath the conjunctiva in your eye. This is the clear coating that covers the sclera, the white part of the eye. When one of the vessels breaks, the blood is visible under the conjunctiva.

If a larger blood vessel breaks, it can look quite startling. The blood might even spread out over the entire white part of the eye.

It can be unnerving to see a large red spot in your eye. Most of the time, though, there is no pain or irritation. Most people won't have light sensitivity, either. Light sensitivity is when bright light hurts your eyes.

These hemorrhages can have a number of causes, including:

  • Trauma
  • Strain caused by constipation
  • Strain caused by sneezing, coughing, or vomiting
  • Lifting something heavy
  • Diabetes, a disease that affects blood sugar
  • Hypertension, or high blood pressure

A subconjunctival hemorrhage is similar to a bruise on your skin. In your eye, however, the blood-red color is easier to see. This is because it is under the clear, transparent conjunctiva and in front of the white part of your eye.

This condition doesn't usually require treatment. The spot typically goes away on its own, usually within a week. If the hemorrhage is large, it may take a little longer. As it heals it may look similar to a yellowish bruise.

If the spot is large, your healthcare provider may recommend artificial tears or cold compresses. This can help you feel comfortable if there is swelling.

Even if you think your red spot is a subconjunctival hemorrhage, it is always best to see your healthcare provider. Sometimes red spots in the eye can have more serious causes.

Recap

A red spot on your eye is usually caused by a burst blood vessel. While these can look scary, they're harmless and typically don't cause symptoms. It is important to know the cause for sure, though. Your healthcare provider can rule out the possibility of something more serious.

Other Causes of Red Spots in the Eye

There are a few other conditions that your eye doctor will want to consider.

Episcleritis

Episcleritis is an inflammatory disorder of the episclera, the thin tissue between the clear conjunctiva and the white sclera. Inflammatory disorders cause part of your body, in this case the episclera, to become red and inflamed. Episcleritis is acute, which means it comes on suddenly.

Episcleritis usually looks much worse than it is. Most cases of episcleritis go away on their own. About one-third of cases, though, are linked to inflammatory conditions that affect other parts of the body.

Pinguecula

A pinguecula is a common growth or thickening of the tissue that lines the outside of the eye. It can appear raised and yellow in color. It is thought to be caused by exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays or long-term irritation.

You may be unaware that you have a pinguecula. You may notice it when it becomes inflamed. This can happen if you spend a lot of time in the sun and wind.

When a pinguecula is inflamed, it is called pingueculitis. It can become red and swollen and suddenly appear on your eye.

Most of the time, a pinguecula does not need to be treated. You can have it removed surgically, though, if it causes uncomfortable symptoms. Some people also have them removed for cosmetic reasons.

Conjunctival Hemangioma

A conjunctival hemangioma is a clump of twisted blood vessels that develops on the white of the eye. This condition is almost always congenital, which means you are born with it. It usually appears a few weeks after birth. Most of the time, it will disappear as a child grows.

In rare cases, conjunctival hemangiomas can appear in adults over the age of 60. Though they are usually harmless, some people prefer to have them surgically removed. If they are not removed, they should be examined once a year.

Recap

Most red spots in the eye go away on their own. Some harmless growths like pinguecula and conjunctival hemangiomas can be removed surgically. This is usually done for cosmetic reasons.

Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder. People with sickle cell disease have chronic, long-lasting anemia, or a decrease in healthy red blood cells. The condition also causes severe bouts of pain.

Sickle cell disease is caused by abnormally shaped hemoglobin molecules. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to your tissues. The abnormal hemoglobin can cause the cells to rupture, forming a sickle shape.

Sickle cell patients will sometimes have comma-shaped red spots or lines on the white part of their eyes. This is because the sickle-shaped blood cells may cause blockages in small blood vessels.

Benign and Cancerous Growths

Some growths on the eye can be serious, including:

  • Keratoacanthoma, a type of skin cancer that can form on the eye
  • Actinic granuloma, a rare skin disorder
  • Conjunctival epitheliomas, abnormal growths that form in the tissue that covers the eye

If you notice any new growths on the surface of your eye, see your eye doctor as soon as possible.

When to See Your Healthcare Provider

Do not ignore a new red spot in your eye. If it lasts for longer than a few days, see your eye doctor. A comprehensive eye exam will help your healthcare provider rule out serious conditions.

Summary

A red spot in the eye is usually harmless. In most cases, it is caused by a burst blood vessel. These types of spots will usually go away without any treatment.

A red spot in the eye may have other causes, some of which are serious. Always see a healthcare provider if you have a new red spot in your eye that lasts longer than a few days.

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Article Sources
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