Written by Dr. Eamonn Fahy, MB, BCh, BAO, Ph.D.
A sub-conjunctival haemorrhage is bleeding which occurs under the conjunctiva of the eye. The conjunctiva is the outer skin of the eye, which is a thin layer of clear tissue and is located over the white part of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelids. It is a very common eye condition and occurs when blood vessels under the conjunctiva are broken. Usually, sub-conjunctival haemorrhage is not serious and will resolve on its own. Rarely, it can be a sign of serious trauma.
The following overview will cover the causes of sub-conjunctival haemorrhage, its common signs and symptoms, progression of sub-conjunctival haemorrhage, diagnosis and treatment options as well as how it can be prevented.
There are several reasons that may cause sub-conjunctival haemorrhage, which include:
An obvious sign of sub-conjunctival haemorrhage is waking up and noticing that the white of the eye is red. This is usually caused by unintentional eye rubbing while asleep.
If you experience any of these signs and symptoms, schedule an appointment with an eye health professional to get your eyes checked. It is also important to note that the development of eye conditions may even start before symptoms appear, which makes going for regular and timely eye checks that much more essential.
Sub-conjunctival haemorrhage will resolve on its own and does not tend to progress unless there are untreated medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, that can cause increased risk of sub-conjunctival haemorrhage. Those with conditions such as chronic cough or blood-clotting disorders can increase the risk of recurrent sub-conjunctival haemorrhage.
Sub-conjunctival haemorrhage is diagnosed by an eye health professional based on a comprehensive eye check. Questions are asked regarding overall health and any recent injuries to work out the cause of the sub-conjunctival haemorrhage and an eye examination is performed using a slit lamp (a microscope used to look at the eye) to have a closer look at the structures at the front of the eye.
Usually, sub-conjunctival haemorrhage will resolve on its own over the course of 1 to 2 weeks. There is no treatment that can speed up its recovery but there is no danger in the eye being red during this time. If it does not resolve on its own after 1 to 2 weeks seek medical advice from an eye health professional or a medical doctor. The eye may be mildly irritated while the sub-conjunctival haemorrhage is present, and your eye health professional may prescribe lubricant eye drops to improve comfort.
Treating of conditions that increases the risk of sub-conjunctival haemorrhage can help to prevent it, for example, treating dry eyes, managing chronic cough and controlling high blood pressure.
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