An eye bleed can appear in the form of blotches or complete redness of the eye. A person may also experience blood-stained tears. Eye bleeds can be harmless, but they may also indicate an underlying issue.

The type of eye bleed a person has will determine the symptoms they experience, and what treatment they may need.

This article will discuss some types of eye bleeding that can occur and what can cause them. It will also look at when to seek medical help.

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An ocular hemorrhage refers to bleeding inside the eye. Within this category are the following types of hemorrhage:

Subconjunctival hemorrhage

Subconjunctival hemorrhage (SCH) is a common type of eye bleed. It occurs when a blood vessel breaks.

The blood can appear in the whites of the eyes. The effect can look dramatic, but the symptoms are generally painless. SCH is not harmful.

There are two categories of SCH: traumatic and spontaneous. Traumatic SCH can occur due to local mild trauma, such as rubbing the eye.

Spontaneous SCH occurs due to a medical condition, such as hypertension or diabetes. These conditions can cause blood vessels to become fragile and rupture.

SCH generally does not typically require treatment and should resolve in 1 to 2 weeks. However, if it occurs due to a medical condition, a person should seek treatment for the underlying cause.


A hyphema is a less common but more serious eye condition. With a hyphema, blood collects at the front of the eye, between the cornea and the iris.

A hyphema typically occurs due to a traumatic injury to the eye, but could also be a result of infection or the growth of atypical blood vessels.

Some symptoms of a hyphema include:

  • pain
  • bleeding in the front of the eye
  • sensitivity to light
  • vision that is blocked, cloudy, or blurry
  • nausea or vomiting, if intraocular pressure rises acutely

Bleeding deeper in the eye

Eye bleeding that a person cannot see at the surface includes the following types:

  • Vitreous hemorrhage: The clear part of the eye is called the vitreous. A vitreous hemorrhage can cause the blood to enter the area.
  • Subretinal hemorrhage: This is when bleeding occurs underneath the retina.
  • Submacular hemorrhage: This is when bleeding occurs in the space between the retinal pigment epithelium and the retina, called the macula.

With these, a person may experience:

  • the appearance of floaters
  • blurry vision
  • a red tint to the vision
  • scotoma, which is a form of visual field loss where blind spots are present


Hemolacria, or bloody epiphora, refers to when the body produces blood-stained tears. These may come from the tear glands themselves, but this appears to be rare. Usually, the blood comes from other parts of the eye.

Wear or cuts on the inner eyelid can cause direct bleeding from the affected area. If the cause of the bleed is farther back, the bloody tears may come from the inner margin of the eye.

Sometimes, hemolacria is a result of eye cancer.

There are a variety of reasons that a person may have a burst blood vessel in the eye. These include:

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, most hyphemas occur due to sports-related injuries. Some less common causes include:

  • atypical blood vessels on the iris
  • eye infections, such as from the herpes virus
  • blood clotting conditions
  • cancers of the eye, though this is rare

There are also medications and underlying medical conditions that may contribute to eye bleeding.

Some medications that can increase the chance of experiencing an eye bleed include:

  • blood thinners, such as warfarin and heparin
  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin
  • P2Y12 inhibitors, such as clopidogrel (Plavix)

Some medical conditions that can cause bleeding in the eye include:

Whether or not a person needs treatment will depend on the cause of the eye bleed.

SCH does not typically need treatment. However, treatment is necessary if the cause is due to an underlying medical condition.

Treatment for hyphemas and other types of eye bleeding may include:

  • laser surgery to bring eye pressure down
  • eye surgery in severe cases, such as non-clearing hyphemas that surgeons need to evacuate in the operating room
  • eye drops to control inflammation, pain, and pressure

The type of eye drop an ophthalmologist prescribes will depend on the cause of the bleeding. Some examples include antibiotic, antiviral, and steroid eye drops.

At home, a person may need to:

  • wear a special shield over the affected eye
  • rest
  • raise the head to help the eye drain

In many cases, bleeding in the eye is a result of SCH and does not require treatment.

However, it is best to seek medical help in case the bleed is a symptom of an underlying condition or causes other problems later on.

With some eye bleeds, such as a vitreous hemorrhage or hyphema, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as symptoms appear.

An ophthalmologist may assess a person’s blood pressure and take blood for laboratory testing to see if the eye bleed is due to an underlying problem.

For more specific diagnoses, a doctor may use eye drops to increase the size of the pupils, making them easier to examine. They may also use an ultrasound or CT scan to look for injuries in or behind the eyes.

The most common type of eye bleed, SCH, tends to go away after 1 to 2 weeks.

However, if a person experiences an eye bleed due to a hyphema or more severe cause, treatment and recovery may take longer.

Subconjunctival hemorrhage (SCH) is a common cause of a bleeding eye. It occurs due to a burst blood vessel and typically affects the whites of the eyes.

Another cause of an eye bleed is a hyphema. This type occurs due to a tear in the anterior structures of the eye, and the blood collects at the front of the eye.

Other causes of eye bleeding include vitreous, subretinal, and submacular hemorrhages.

SCH that is not associated with an underlying medical condition does not usually require treatment. However, hyphemas and other causes of eye bleeding do require medical attention.

In general, if a person experiences an eye bleed, they should contact an ophthalmologist.