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What is a Scleral Hemorrhage?

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  • Written By: Misty Wiser
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2016
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A scleral hemorrhage occurs when tiny blood vessels in the eye burst, leaving bright red spots of blood in the white of the eye. The blood is trapped by the outermost layer of the eyeball, called the conjunctiva. Eventually, the blood will be absorbed by the eyeball and the red spot will fade. It is also known as a subconjunctival hemorrhage.

Although a scleral hemorrhage may be only a small spot of red, it could also be a series of scattered red areas or even cause the entire white of the eye to turn red. Larger areas will take longer to heal, normally a period of two to four weeks after the discoloration is first noticed. The condition is usually painless, but some people notice pressure in the eyeball or an itching sensation on the surface of the conjunctiva.

Once the discoloration from the blood under the conjunctiva fades, there are not usually any lasting effects from the condition. If the bleeding persists, a healthcare professional should be consulted to rule out blood pressure disorders that could cause the red spots in the eye. Some blood clotting disorders may be indicated by persistent broken blood vessels in the eyes.

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The causes of this type of hemorrhage are varied. Straining to pass a bowel movement can cause the pinprick rupture of the capillaries within the eyeball. Similarly, the pushing involved in childbirth can cause pressure to form in the eyeballs, which may result in a the red spots. There have been reports of coughing and sneezing causing the blood vessels in the eye to burst. Choking is another pressure-related cause, and vomiting may also cause enough pressure to burst blood vessels.

Other causes of a scleral hemorrhage may be an injury to the head or thoracic cage, and a direct blow to the eyes may cause bleeding under the conjunctiva. Deep-sea divers have been known to experience burst blood vessels after a dive from the pressure of the dive mask. Some people may exhibit symptoms as a result of too much stress for an extended period of time.

Treatment is limited to relieving the uncomfortable feeling that usually accompanies the condition. The daily application of moisturizing eye drops may relieve the itchy and dry feeling of the eyeball. A medical professional should be consulted if the hemorrhage occurs in both eyes at the same time, or if it continues to happen repeatedly.

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Discuss this Article

anon338176
Post 6

I have blood spots in both eyes and what looks like them all a round my eyes and forehead. I also have a banging headache and sickness and the runs. Any ideas? Pain killers are not helping.

anon310206
Post 5

My son poked me in the eye about an hour ago. I have a small area of red spots on the sclera, soreness at the site and a headache. I feel reassured that I do not need to consult a doctor and that the redness should fade in a few weeks. I will, of course, go and see someone if it persists.

cloudel
Post 4

I often wondered what was causing those red spots. It looked like someone had taken a sharp pointed object, like a pencil or a needle, and poked it in my eye. I actually thought I might be injuring myself somehow in my sleep, though it seemed I would wake up if I caused myself pain.

During my yearly exam, my doctor noticed that I had high blood pressure. She looked at my eyes and told me that I even had the burst blood vessels that sometimes go along with it. I was actually relieved to know what was causing them, because it was something that I could take medication to control.

StarJo
Post 3

After reading this, I think I know what is causing those tiny red dots and thin streaks to appear in my eyes. It is something totally unrelated to the area that I never would have suspected.

I struggle with constipation. I often have to push to have a bowel movement, sometimes to the point that it hurts. I can feel the blood vessels in my neck and face straining, and I turn bright red.

Since I have never felt pressure in my eyes while straining, I never thought about this being the cause. It certainly could be, because I have often exerted enough pressure to pop even a big blood vessel.

wavy58
Post 2

My college roommate had an eating disorder, and her eyes stayed red. She was very open with me about her illness. She kind of had to be, because I could hear her vomiting in the bathroom every time.

I had always thought that the eye redness was due to her being so tired from all the vomiting. People always say you look tired when your eyes are red, because usually, you are. I now see that the strain of vomiting caused burst blood vessels in her eyes.

I felt bad for her, because she was doing all this to make herself more attractive. The side effects of her disorder made her anything but that. Her breath was horrible, her teeth were discolored, and what once were beautiful blue eyes became streaked with red.

Perdido
Post 1

It is amazing to me that something as seemingly harmless as coughing or sneezing could be powerful enough to rupture blood vessels. Maybe since the eye’s vessels are so tiny, it takes less force to burst them.

I noticed that I had several red spots on my eyes while I had bronchitis. I just thought it was one more consequence of the sickness, but now I realize that all that deep-chest coughing could have caused several scleral hemorrhages.

My eyes are always red after I leave my sister’s house, because she has cats that live inside, and I am very allergic to them. I never knew that the redness was actually blood brought forth by sneezing.

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