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What is a subconjunctival hemorrhage?

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Quick Answer

A subconjunctival hemorrhage is a broken blood vessel trapped beneath the transparent surface of the eye. The white part of the eye turns bright red, indicating a blood vessel has hemorrhaged.

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Full Answer

A subconjunctival hemorrhage is painless and usually goes unnoticed until discovered by looking in a mirror or observed by someone else. It is most often harmless, heals on its own, and rarely requires special medical treatment. The condition lasts for one to two weeks until the blood is re-absorbed by the eye tissue it's trapped in.

Sometimes a subconjunctival hemorrhage can occur for no reason at all. Common causes for this condition include intense coughing, violent sneezing, repeated vomiting, straining bowel movements, heavy lifting or trauma to the eye. Occasionally, a subconjunctival hemorrhage can also be caused by an eye infection or from aggressive rubbing of the eye due to allergies or fatigue.

While it is unpleasant to see, this type of eye hemorrhage does not damage or negatively impact vision, nor does it create any kind of discharge from the eye itself. The only noticeable physical discomfort may be a slightly scratchy sensation on the surface of the eye where the blood vessel burst. A physician should be consulted if more than one subconjunctival hemorrhage is experienced in a short amount of time.

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