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A to Z: Hemorrhage, Subconjunctival

A subconjunctival hemorrhage (sub-kon-junk-TIH-vul HEM-uh-rij) is a bright red patch on the white part of the eye caused by a broken blood vessel just below the clear surface of the eye.

More to Know

The sclera is the outermost protective layer of the eye. It’s what we see as the white of the eye. Over the sclera lies the conjunctiva, a clear mucous membrane that prevents the eye from becoming dry. The conjunctiva is served by tiny blood vessels. If one of the blood vessels breaks open beneath the conjunctiva, it can cause a red patch to appear on the sclera.

In most cases, a subconjunctival hemorrhage causes no pain, changes in vision, or discharge from the eye. Often, people won’t know they have one until they look in the mirror. Subconjunctival hemorrhages can be caused by an injury to the eye, violent coughing or sneezing, vomiting, or heavy lifting. Frequently, a subconjunctival hemorrhage will have no apparent cause.

Subconjunctival hemorrhages require no treatment, although some people choose to use lubricating (rewetting) eye drops if they have a scratchy feeling in the affected eye.

Keep in Mind

Most subconjunctival hemorrhages cause no pain or problems and don’t need treatment. The sclera will absorb the blood within 1-2 weeks. If the blood in the eye lasts longer than that or keeps coming back, it should be examined by a doctor as soon as possible.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.