Subconjunctival bleeding

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Subconjunctival bleeding
Other namesSubconjunctival hemorrhage, hyposphagma
Subconjunctival hemorrhage resulting in red coloration of the white of the eye
SpecialtyOphthalmology, Optometry
SymptomsRed spot over whites of the eye, little to no pain
DurationOne to two weeks
TypesTraumatic, spontaneous
CausesCoughing, vomiting, direct injury
Risk factorsHigh blood pressure, diabetes, older age
Diagnostic methodBased on appearance
Differential diagnosisOpen globe, retrobulbar hematoma, conjunctivitis, pterygium
TreatmentNo specific treatment
MedicationArtificial tears
PrognosisGood, 10% risk of recurrence

Subconjunctival bleeding, also known as subconjunctival hemorrhage or subconjunctival haemorrhage, is bleeding from a small blood vessel over the whites of the eye. It results in a red spot in the white of the eye.[1] There is generally little to no pain and vision is not affected.[2][3] Generally only one eye is affected.[2]

Causes can include coughing, vomiting, heavy lifting, straining during acute constipation or the act of "bearing down" during childbirth, as these activities can increase the blood pressure in the vascular systems supplying the conjunctiva. Other causes include blunt or penetrating trauma to the eye. Risk factors include hypertension, diabetes, old age, and blood thinners. Subconjunctival bleeding occurs in about 2% of newborns following a vaginal delivery. The blood accumulates between the conjunctiva and the episclera. Diagnosis is generally based on the appearance of the conjunctiva.[2]

The condition is relatively common,[4] and both sexes are affected equally. Spontaneous bleeding occurs more commonly over the age of 50 while the traumatic type occurs more often in young males. Generally no specific treatment is required and the condition resolves over two to three weeks. Artificial tears may be used to alleviate irritation.[2]

Signs and symptoms[edit]

Subconjunctival bleeding initially appears bright red underneath the transparent bulbar conjunctiva. Later, the bleeding may spread and become green or yellow as the hemoglobin is metabolized. It usually disappears within two weeks.[5] The affected eye may feel dry, rough, or scratchy, but the condition is not usually painful.


Subconjunctival bleeding in infants may be associated with scurvy (a vitamin C deficiency),[8] abuse or traumatic asphyxia syndrome.[9]


Diagnosis is by visual inspection, by noting the typical finding of bright red discoloration confined to the white portion (sclera) of the eye. In rare cases blood may drip from the eye.


A subconjunctival bleeding is typically a self-limiting condition that requires no treatment unless there is evidence of an eye infection or there has been significant eye trauma. Artificial tears may be applied four to six times a day if the eye feels dry or scratchy.[10] The elective use of aspirin is typically discouraged.


  1. ^ "What is a Subconjunctival Hemorrhage?". American Academy of Ophthalmology. 3 July 2019. Retrieved 17 October 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d Doshi, R; Noohani, T (January 2020). Subconjunctival Hemorrhage. PMID 31869130.
  3. ^ Cronau, H; Kankanala, RR; Mauger, T (15 January 2010). "Diagnosis and management of red eye in primary care". American Family Physician. 81 (2): 137–44. PMID 20082509.
  4. ^ Gold, Daniel H.; Lewis, Richard Alan (2010). Clinical Eye Atlas. Oxford University Press. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-19-534217-8.
  5. ^ Robert H. Grahamn (February 2009). "Subconjunctival Hemorrhage". Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  6. ^ a b "Subconjunctival hemorrhage". PubMed Health on the National Institutes of Health website. May 1, 2011. Archived from the original on Feb 2, 2014. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
  7. ^ a b "Subconjunctival hemorrhage". n.d. Archived from the original on May 13, 2012. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
  8. ^ Bruce M. Rothschild (December 17, 2008). "Scurvy". Retrieved Mar 26, 2022.
  9. ^ Spitzer S. G; Luorno J.; Noël L. P. (2005). "Isolated subconjunctival hemorrhages in nonaccidental trauma". Journal of American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. 9 (1): 53–56. doi:10.1016/j.jaapos.2004.10.003. PMID 15729281.
  10. ^ Robert H. Grahamn (February 2009). "Subconjunctival Hemorrhage". Retrieved 23 November 2010.

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