I recently had a marked increase in patients visiting the practice with the following complaint:

“Elke, this morning I woke up with an extremely red eye! It is not painfull but it looks awful! Should I be concerned?”

My answer is always that this is usually a harmless condition that causes great alarm because of its sudden onset and dramatic appearance. It is called subconjunctival haemorrhage and is nothing to be concerned about.

A subconjunctival haemorrhage is caused by a bleeding blood vessel under the conjunctiva (white of the eye). The conjunctiva can’t absorb blood very quickly, so the blood gets trapped. Later, the haemorrhage may spread and become green or yellow, like a bruise. 

The most obvious sign of a subconjunctival haemorrhage is a bright red patch on the white (sclera) of your eye:


The cause of a subconjunctival haemorrhage isn’t always known. The following actions may cause a small blood vessel to rupture in your eye:

  • Violent coughing
  • Powerful sneezing
  • Straining
  • Vomiting 

In some cases, a subconjunctival haemorrhage may result from an eye injury, including:

  • Roughly rubbing your eye
  • Trauma, such as a foreign object injuring your eye 

Risk factors for a subconjunctival haemorrhage include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Certain blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin and aspirin
  • Blood-clotting disorders
  • Contact lens wearers

As a rule, no treatment is required, but the most disconcerting part is the appearance. The subconjunctival haemorrhage will usually disappear within two weeks or so. Unfortunately, you’ll have to walk around with the red eye for a while….

If trauma is the cause, I usually refer to an Eye Specialist to ensure no underlying damage or injury occurred in the eye.

Please, if there is any decrease in vision don’t hesitate to come and see me or an Eye Specialist!

If you have more question, please do not hesitate to call me.

Love Your Eyes

Elke Smit

Elke is the owner of Eyestyle Optometrist. Her passion is to promote eye health and eye care but she is even more passionate about the people behind the eyes. The most important factor is good eyesight which gives us the ability to see the beauty in all things around us.

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