Bleeding in the white of your eye

Also known as a subconjunctival haemorrhage

Subconjunctival haemorrhage is the medical name for bleeding in the white of your eye. Although this can look serious, it is usually harmless.

Key points

  1. Subconjunctival haemorrhage creates a bright red patch in your eye. It usually causes no other symptoms and doesn't affect your vision. 
  2. It's caused by bursting of the tiny blood vessels that run in between the clear surface (the conjunctiva) and the white (the sclera) of your eye.
  3. No treatment is needed and it will clear itself in about 2 weeks. 
  4. See your doctor if this keeps recurring, or if you haven't had your blood pressure checked in a while, if you have bleeding in other parts of your body or if you think an eye injury might have caused the bleeding. 

What are the causes of subconjunctival haemorrhage?

There are many blood vessels that run in between your conjunctiva (the clear surface of your eye) and sclera (the white of your eye). Subconjunctival haemorrhage happens due to some of these tiny blood vessels bursting and bleeding.

In most cases, there isn't a clear cause, but causes can include:

What are the symptoms of subconjunctival haemorrhage?

Bleeding in the white of your eye usually causes no symptoms other than the red patch. Occasionally, you can feel some mild irritation. It doesn't affect your vision as the central part of your eye is not affected. 

How is subconjunctival haemorrhage treated?

No treatment is needed. It will clear itself in about 2 weeks. However, see your doctor if you:

  • haven't had your blood pressure checked recently
  • think an eye injury or a flying object caused it 
  • have bleeding in other parts of your body
  • keep having recurrent subconjunctival haemorrhages.

Learn more

Subconjunctival haemorrhage HealthInfo Canterbury, NZ
Subconjunctival haemorrhage Patient Info, UK 
What is a subconjunctival haemorrhage? American Academy of Ophthalmology, US

References

  1. Unilateral red eye Auckland Regional HealthPathways, NZ, 2019
  2. Subconjunctival haemorrhage Patient Info, UK

Reviewed by

Dr Divya Perumal works at the Eye Institute and Auckland public hospital. She has expertise in performing eye surgery, including advanced glaucoma surgery and cataract surgery. She is a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland and is actively involved in teaching junior doctors and research, as well as conducting public lectures. 
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Dr Divya Perumal, Ophthalmologist, Auckland Last reviewed: 18 Sep 2020