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Subconjunctival hemorrhage: What a broken blood vessel in eye means

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The moment you look in the mirror and see a red patch in your eye, it can put you in a panic mode. It may be a case of subconjunctival hemorrhage, which means a blood vessel in your eye is broken. Blood vessels can break, burst or pop due to many reasons. It sounds alarming, but is subconjunctival hemorrhage something you should be worried about? Let’s find out what an ophthalmologist has to say about subconjunctival hemorrhage and if you need a treatment for it.

HealthShots consulted Dr Nirati Srivastava, Consultant, Ophthalmology, Regency Hospital, Kanpur to know everything about subconjunctival hemorrhage or broken blood vessel.

broken blood vessel in eye
The red patch in your eye might be a sign of subconjunctival hemorrhage. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What is a subconjunctival hemorrhage?

Dr Srivastava says that when a small blood vessel pops behind the clear surface of your eye, it causes a subconjunctival hemorrhage (conjunctiva). It looks like you are having a bruise on your skin. Blood gets trapped as the conjunctiva cannot absorb blood quickly. You’ll know you have a subconjunctival hemorrhage only when the white part of your eye is visibly red.

Causes of breaking of blood vessel in the eye

A popped blood vessel in the eye is rarely uncomfortable. There are many causes for an eye blood vessel to break.

• Rubbing your eye in an aggressive manner (why you should avoid rubbing your eyes)
• Coughing
• Trauma to the eye
• Old or dirty contact lenses

Is subconjunctival hemorrhage serious?

It can be worrisome to notice a red patch in your eye. After all, a blood vessel in your eye shattering sounds like a serious problem. The expert says that it appears more alarming than it actually is. Only when symptoms extend beyond this minor annoyance, you should call a doctor. A medical expert can do an examination if you have discharge, swelling, rapid changes in vision, or severe discomfort (how to reduce puffy eyes).

If your eyes are uncomfortable in addition to being red, it might be an indication of more severe symptoms. It includes a hematoma, which is a collection of blood in front of the coloured part of the eye. Also, it could be a good idea to have it checked if the damaged vessel does not clear up within two weeks.

broken blood vessel in eye
Rubbing your eyes can lead to a broken blood vessel in your eye. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Treatment for subconjunctival hemorrhage

The good part is that it doesn’t need to be treated. If irritation develops, your doctor can suggest you to use eye drops. Dr Srivastava says that within two weeks, most broken blood vessels are healed. If the patches are big, it could require more time to fade. The colour of the area might also alter once the blood stops. You can see it fade just like a bruise. Swelling and irritation can be reduced with the help of ice packs and over-the-counter eye drops. Use a cold compress as much as possible in the first 24 to 48 hours after seeing the patch. This can help to minimise swelling and inflammation. For cold compress, gently hold a few ice cubes wrapped in a clean cloth on the affected area for a few minutes at a time during the day.

So, next time you see a red patch in your eye with no pain or any discomfort, don’t panic.

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