What is a Burst Blood Vessel in the Eye?



A red spot in your eye might make you feel like a villain in a horror movie, but it is typically not a reason for alarm. It is likely a subconjunctival hemorrhage.

A subconjunctival hemorrhage is a condition in which small, delicate blood vessels break under the clear conjunctival tissue which covers the white of the eye called the sclera. Blood gets trapped under the conjunctival membranes, giving the eye a bright, blood red appearance.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage Causes

It is not always possible to identify the cause of broken blood vessels in the eye, but possible causes include:

  • A sudden increase in blood pressure that can result from coughing, sneezing or laughing
  • Heavy lifting
  • Straining from constipation
  • Use of aspirin or blood thinners such as Coumadin or Warfarin
  • Eye trauma
  • Eye surgery such as LASIK or cataract surgery
  • Vitamin K deficiency or blood clotting disorder (rare)
  • Rubbing the eyes

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage Treatment

Most subconjunctival hemorrhages are not dangerous and they should not interfere with vision. It is normal to feel some eye irritation and sensitivity though. Artificial tears or lubricating drops can help soothe irritation, but the broken blood vessels have to repair themselves naturally. As the eye heals, try not to rub it because that can delay the healing process or break more blood vessels.

When to see an Ophthalmologist

A subconjunctival hemorrhage will typically disappear within one to two weeks, and most people won't need to see an ophthalmologist. The affected area may even change color, much like a bruise, as the blood is reabsorbed. Call an ophthalmologist, however, if you have symptoms besides minor eye irritation or eye sensitivity. Eye discharge, swelling, sudden change in vision or sharp pain may indicate a different eye problem.

Make comprehensive eye exams a part of your preventive care. During a complete eye exam, your ophthalmologist will check the health of your eyes and update your prescription. Many degenerative diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration can develop without any symptoms, and a delayed diagnosis can result in permanent vision loss. So call your eye doctor today or find a board-certified ophthalmologist near you.