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Acute Red Eye (SCH)

The conjunctiva is the clear membrane that covers the white part of the eye (sclera). It protects and lubricates the eyeball and also allows the eye to turn easily. The conjunctiva contains many small, rather fragile blood vessels. Rupture of one of these small blood vessels results in a  SUBCONJUNCTIVAL HEMORRHAGE.  This appears as a sharply outlined, bright red area on the white of the eye.


Most of the time no symptoms accompany subconjunctival hemorrhages; however, some patients complain of a sharp pain when the hemorrhage begins. Many people become alarmed by the sudden onset of this common problem, even though it is not associated with any diseases that cause vision loss. The hemorrhage tends to fade over the following two to three weeks and may clear last in the area next to the colored part of the eye (iris).


Causes of a subconjunctival hemorrhage include:

  • Dry eyes

  • Rubbing of the eyes roughly/hard or inserting contact lenses (more common with dry eyes)

  • Lifting heavy objects or weight lifting

  • Vomiting

  • Coughing or sneezing can also cause a hemorrhage

  • High blood pressure that is very high or fluctuates highly at times

  • Bleeding problems or thin blood from a low platelet count

  • Blood thinners such as Warafin, Coumadin or Aspirin

  • Severe eye infections

  • Trauma to the eye or head, with fingernails being a common cause

  • LASIK or Cataract surgery


Often an obvious cause is not found if the subconjunctival hemorrhage occurs only once or rarely.


No TREATMENT is needed but underlying causes, if identified, should be addressed. Subconjunctival hemorrhages will go away and may be only a cosmetic problem for a couple of weeks. Recurrent Subconjunctival hemorrhages usually are indicative of an underlying cause.  Call our office if you experience a Subconjunctival hemorrhage.

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