Subconjunctival haemorrhage (burst blood vessel in the eye)
More commonly known as a burst blood vessel in the eye, a subconjunctival haemorrhage happens when one of the small blood vessels just beneath the eye’s thin protective layer (the conjunctiva) breaks, creating a red patch on the white part of your eye (sclera) where the blood collects.
Symptoms of subconjunctival haemorrhage
The most obvious symptom is the distinctive red patch of blood on the white part of the eye. This can look quite alarming and may be more extensive if you take medication like aspirin or warfarin that affect the blood’s ability to clot, but it’s nothing to worry about.
Other than that, people won’t tend to experience any other subconjunctival haemorrhage symptoms. You won’t feel any pain and it won’t affect your vision. Some people may have a feeling of fullness in the eye or gritty sensation.
What causes a burst blood vessel in the eye?
A burst blood vessel in the eye can happen spontaneously and it might not always be possible to pin down an exact cause, but some subconjunctival haemorrhage causes can include things like:
- Straining, coughing or sneezing
- Injury to the eye
- Eye surgery
Diagnosing subconjunctival haemorrhage
In cases where a subconjunctival haemorrhage has occurred spontaneously, diagnosis is quite straightforward, sometimes with just the eye of an experienced doctor.
However, if there is any history of eye surgery, trauma to the eye or head, or perhaps an environment where something could have got into the eye, then a more extensive examination is required.
How are subconjunctival haemorrhages treated?
In most cases, a subconjunctival haemorrhage won’t require any treatment as it will usually go away on its own after a couple of weeks. If you feel any associated grittiness or irritation, ask your pharmacist about moisturising eye drops to use.
We’d recommend seeing your GP to get your blood pressure checked, particularly if it happens repeatedly. They may carry out tests to investigate further.
If the burst blood vessel was due to an eye injury, you should see your optometrist to make sure there isn’t any other damage to the eye. They might refer you to an ophthalmologist to give your eye a more in-depth assessment.
If you experience recurring subconjunctival haemorrhages, you should see your GP to determine any potential underlying causes, which can include high blood pressure or poor blood clotting.
How long does a burst blood vessel in the eye last?
Similar to a bruise on your skin, a subconjunctival haemorrhage will gradually get lighter and fade away after a couple of weeks. It can take anywhere between a week to three weeks to disappear altogether.
Preventing burst blood vessels in the eye
Eye vessels can break in the eye spontaneously, due to natural reactions that you have no control over, so it’s not necessarily possible to prevent burst blood vessels in the eye.
The best thing you can do is to practice good eye health:
- Take care of your contact lenses
- Flushing out anything in your eye with eye drops
- Wearing protective eyewear during sports
- Have regular eye tests and seek advice from your optometrist as soon as you have any concerns