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Bleeding in the White of the Eye (Subconjunctival Hemorrhage)

What is bleeding in the white of the eye?

If a small blood vessel breaks in the white part of your eye, the blood makes part of the white of your eye bright red. This is called a subconjunctival hemorrhage. The redness can increase over 24 to 48 hours, especially if you are taking aspirin or blood thinners. Usually, it clears up by itself in a week or two, just like a bruise on the skin does.

What is the cause?

Bleeding in the white of your eye can be caused by injuries, forceful coughing, vomiting or sneezing, or straining to have a bowel movement. Being on blood thinners such as aspirin or warfarin may increase the risk. However, most of the time, there is no clear cause for the bleeding.

What are the symptoms?

You will probably not know you have it unless you look in a mirror or someone tells you that your eye is red. Some people have a mild scratchy feeling in the eye. It should not affect your vision.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine your eyes. Usually no tests are needed. If it happens to you a lot, a blood test may be done to check for a bleeding problem.

How is it treated?

Usually, no treatment is needed. In most cases, the redness in your eye goes away in 1 to 3 weeks. Your eye may turn yellow before it turns white again, as the blood is absorbed. Your provider may suggest that you use artificial tears eyedrops if your eye feels scratchy.

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment your healthcare provider prescribes. Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How long it will take to recover
  • What activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

Reviewed for medical accuracy by faculty at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. Web site:
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-12-31
Last reviewed: 2014-10-28
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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