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A red spot on the eye may look worrisome, but it is rarely a medical emergency. Usually, a red spot on the eye occurs when blood collects under the conjunctiva as a result of a subconjunctival hemorrhage.
A red spot on the eye, or subconjunctival hemorrhage, usually occurs when blood leaks between layers of the eye. It typically causes bright red patches over the white part of the eye.
These blood spots on the eye are often the result of increased blood pressure. In some cases, subconjunctival hemorrhages can appear without any identifiable cause.
In this article, learn what causes blood spots on the eyes and how to treat them.
The conjunctiva is the transparent membrane that covers the surface of the eye. The conjunctiva contains tiny blood vessels that can break or leak after sudden increases in pressure.
A person might not realize they have a subconjunctival hemorrhage until they look in a mirror. It does not cause other symptoms, such as pain, swelling, or vision loss.
Common causes of a red or blood spot on the eye include:
- excess physical strain
- injury to the eye (trauma)
- irritation or allergic reactions
- rubbing the eye too hard
- straining to go to the bathroom
- contact lens use
- conjunctivalchalasis (CCH)
Rare causes of subconjunctival hemorrhages include:
- high blood pressure
- taking a blood thinner such as aspirin or Coumadin
- medical disorders that cause bleeding
Having diabetes is a risk factor for a subconjunctival hemorrhage. However, not everyone with diabetes develops diabetic retinopathy.
Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:
People who have diabetes can reduce their risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by managing their blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
If a person is experiencing diabetic retinopathy, they may wish to consult a doctor about ways to manage underlying diabetes.
Subconjunctival hemorrhages do not usually require treatment. The healing time can vary from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the size of the spot.
People can use artificial tears to relieve irritation or dryness. Artificial tears are available in drugstores and pharmacies and online.
A doctor may prescribe antibiotic eye drops if the red spot is the result of a bacterial infection.
People should not be alarmed if the red spot changes colors from red to yellow or orange. This is a sign that the hemorrhage is healing. Like a bruise, it may slowly fade over time.
Subconjunctival hemorrhages usually heal over time without medical treatment.
However, people can try these home remedies to relieve uncomfortable symptoms and promote healing:
- applying a warm compress to reduce irritation
- applying a cold compress to reduce swelling
- choosing not to wear contact lenses while the eye heals
- using artificial tears to soothe itching and reduce dryness
- avoiding rubbing the eyes
People should seek medical attention if an injury caused the blood in the eyeball or if they have a history of high blood pressure or a bleeding disorder.
People should also seek medical attention if they experience the following symptoms in addition to the red spot:
- pain in the affected eye
- a headache
- discharge from the eye
- bleeding in both eyes
- changes in vision
- bleeding gums
- bruising around the eye
- multiple subconjunctival hemorrhages
Having multiple subconjunctival hemorrhages might indicate a different underlying medical condition, such as conjunctival amyloidosis.
Conjunctival amyloidosis is a rare eye disorder that causes pink or yellow lesions on the eye or inside the eyelid. It occurs when protein accumulates inside organs and other tissues.
Conjunctival amyloidosis typically stays within the eye and does not involve other organs or tissues.
It is not always possible to prevent blood spots on the white of the eye. Some causes of subconjunctival hemorrhage are largely unavoidable.
However, a person can take steps to reduce the risk of getting blood on the white of the eye. These include:
- Practicing diabetes care: People with any type of diabetes (type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes) are at increased risk of developing these blood spots in the eye. A person with diabetes can lower their risk by managing their condition, including by keeping blood sugar levels in a healthy range.
- Managing blood pressure: High blood pressure can increase a person’s risk of broken blood vessels in the eye. A person should follow their doctor’s instructions for medication and lifestyle changes to keep blood pressure in a healthy range.
- Wearing protective eyewear: People who engage in sports or activities that may involve flying objects or debris should wear protective glasses or headgear to protect their eyes from injury or irritation.
- Asking about a bleeding disorder: If the blood spots on the eye are occurring regularly, a person should talk with their doctor about the possibility of a bleeding disorder. Such disorders could increase the risk of blood leaking from the capillaries in the eye.
- Rubbing the eye gently: Rubbing the eyes too hard can cause the blood vessels in the eye to break. If a person needs to rub their eyes, they should do so with as little pressure as possible. A person can consider using eye drops to flush the eye instead.
Although it may look alarming, a blood spot on the eye is likely to be a subconjunctival hemorrhage. Subconjunctival hemorrhages typically do not require medical treatment and will not affect a person’s vision.
People should see a doctor if they experience pain, impaired vision, or discharge coming from the eye that has the red spot.
Diabetic retinopathy may also cause a red spot on the eye. People who have diabetes can consult a doctor if they notice any changes in their vision, such as floaters or blurring.