If the white of your eye has a section of redness with a bloodlike appearance without any pain, it may be a subconjunctival hemorrhage. This is similar to a bruise on your skin but is located on your eye, rather than beneath the skin. While this can look quite frightening, a subconjunctival hemorrhage is typically nothing to be concerned about.
There are many blood vessels in the eyes, both internally and externally. Since the eyes are unique compared to the rest of the body, the blood vessels in the eye are also unique.
During an eye examination, blood vessels in the retina can be seen and evaluated without any invasive procedure or testing.
In the front of the eye, there are blood vessels which are covered by a clear membrane, the conjunctiva, rather than by a solid layer of skin as in the rest of the body.
These are the blood vessels that are affected in a subconjunctival hemorrhage.
In a subconjunctival hemorrhage, a blood vessel in the conjunctiva (membrane over the white of the eyes) is damaged and ruptures.
When this blood vessel bursts, it allows the blood to leak from the blood vessel and is trapped underneath the conjunctival membrane.
Usually, the blood will follow gravity and pool beneath where the blood vessel was located that was damaged.
As the blood is reabsorbed into the body, the appearance of the blood may change slightly and the location may shift down lower.
Forceful exertion and trauma are the two most common causes of a subconjunctival hemorrhage.
Anytime the body is forced to exert an intense or powerful internal movement, such as sneezing, vomiting, or coughing, there is a risk of a potential for a subconjunctival hemorrhage.
Similarly, any time the head is lowered while lifting a heavy object, there is a risk of excessive force being applied to the eyes.
The force from the movement can become concentrated in the eye and cause a blood vessel to rupture.
The other common reason for a subconjunctival hemorrhage is trauma or damage to the eyes.
Anything that forcefully hits, penetrates, or scratches the eye can result in damage to the blood vessels in the conjunctiva and cause a subconjunctival hemorrhage.
Since a subconjunctival hemorrhage will typically resolve on its own, there may not be any treatment indicated.
If there are recurrent hemorrhages, then it may be due to an underlying blood disorder or due to medications such as blood thinners.
To rule out any underlying blood disorders, a full blood panel may be ordered and coordinated with the primary care doctor.
In the vast majority of cases, a subconjunctival hemorrhage is an isolated incident with a known trigger event.
If there are recurrent hemorrhages, the appropriate blood work will be ordered, or medications will be reviewed.
If you have concerns, always consult with your eye doctor.