Is My Red Eye a Subconjunctival Hemorrhage or Hyphema?

by Apr 26, 2021

It can be frightening to see blood pooling in your eye. Unfortunately, this can happen for a variety of reasons and normally is either a sub conjunctival hemorrhage or hyphema.

What is a Subconjunctival Hemorrhage?

A sub conjunctival hemorrhage is a broken blood vessel in the conjunctiva which is the clear covering over the white part of the eye, the sclera.

Since the conjunctiva is completely clear and the sclera is white, if blood leaks into this area, it appears a bright red and will often be throughout a large portion of the eye.

A sub conjunctival hemorrhage will appear differently than typical eye redness from irritation or allergies. A sub conjunctival hemorrhage will be much darker and have a distinct blood-like look.


What Causes a Subconjunctival Hemorrhage?

A sub conjunctival hemorrhage is a fairly common injury. Any small injury to the eye can result in a sub conjunctival hemorrhage.

These include an object hitting the eye, rubbing the eyes vigorously, straining while coughing or vomiting, and some surgeries.

It is more likely that an individual with risk factors such as taking blood thinners, diabetes, or a bleeding disorder will have a sub conjunctival hemorrhage, but they can happen to anyone.


How to Treat a Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

A sub conjunctival hemorrhage is typically not a severe injury and will heal on its own in a few weeks. If there are repeated instances of hemorrhages, a doctor may do blood work to determine if there is an underlying cause.

Vision is not typically affected by a sub conjunctival hemorrhage and the only symptom noticed is usually the redness of the eye.


What is a Hyphema?

A hyphema is the presence of blood in the anterior chamber, which is the space between the cornea in the front of the eye and the iris, which is the colored part of the eye.

Blood can get into the anterior chamber in several ways, but any time blood is present there has been some injury to the eye’s internal structure.

A hyphema will appear as a central or lower pool of dark red in the front of the eye. It may take up 50% or more of the pupil in severe cases.


What Causes a Hyphema?

A hyphema is almost always caused by trauma or injury to the eye. This can be a blunt trauma such as a car accident or head injury or more focal trauma due to surgery.

Other diseases and disorders can sometimes cause or lead to a hyphema by damaging blood vessels throughout the eyes.


How to Treat a Hyphema

A hyphema is often associated with considerable pain and can be easily re-injured. To prevent this, treatment is typically a protective shield over the eye, instructions to limit activity, and in some cases an oral pain medication is prescribed.

Additional treatment may include eye drops to reduce the pressure inside the eye if the hyphema has caused an elevation of the pressure or a steroid if there is inflammation.


How to Tell the Difference Between a Sub Conjunctival Hemorrhage and Hyphema

While both a sub conjunctival hemorrhage and hyphema result in blood in the eye, they appear quite differently.

A sub conjunctival hemorrhage will only involve the white of the eye, not the center, and will typically have no pain associated with it.

A hyphema will only affect the center of the eye, behind the cornea, and will usually have pain and additional symptoms associated with it.

Both conditions should be managed by your eye doctor for best results and to ensure that there are no other issues.


Our optometrist at Eye Contact in Acworth, GA excels in prescription of glasses, contact lenses and the diagnosis of a variety of eye diseases. Call our optometrist at (770) 529-1925 or schedule an eye exam appointment online if you would like to learn more about a retinal hemorrhage or hyphema. Our eye doctor, Dr. Wes Mobley provides the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Acworth, Georgia and its surrounding areas.

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