Subconjunctival hemorrhage

Alternative names
Red eye

Definition
Red eye is a bright red patch appearing in the white of the eye.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Subconjunctival hemorrhages are bright red patches on the white of the eye (bulbar conjunctiva) that result from rupture and bleeding of a small capillary near the surface. They can appear without warning or trauma, and they are often first noticed when one awakens and looks in the bathroom mirror.

Sudden increases in pressure such as violent sneezing or coughing can produce subconjunctival hemorrhages. These hemorrhages can also occur in people with High blood pressure or who take blood thinners.

These hemorrhages are common in newborn infants, and they often appear as a bright red sickle-shaped hemorrhage at the margin of the cornea and white of the eye. They are thought to be caused by the relatively violent pressure changes across the length of the infant’s body during delivery.

Symptoms

     
  • A bright red patch appearing on the white of the eye  
  • Painless and no discharge from eye

Signs and tests

Subconjunctival hemorrhages are diagnosed by direct examination.

Blood pressure should be tested. If other areas of bruising or bleeding are present, more specific tests may be needed.

Treatment
No treatment is needed.

Expectations (prognosis)
Subconjunctival hemorrhages are self-limiting and resolve over a period of one week.

Complications
There are usually no complications.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if a bright red patch appears on the white of your child’s eye.

Contact your health care provider if you take blood thinners or have bleeding or bruising in other areas.

Prevention
There is no known prevention.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 7, 2012
by Sharon M. Smith, M.D.

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