You wake up in the morning, go into the bathroom to brush your teeth, look in the mirror, and see blood where the whites of your eyes should be. It's understandable that that might frighten you a little – or a lot! But before you start to panic about bleeding from the eyes, you should know that what you're seeing is called a subconjunctival hemorrhage, and it's usually harmless. Here's what you need to know about why it happens:
Did you get hit in the eye playing basketball yesterday? An injury like that is an obvious reason why you might have a broken blood vessel or two in your eye, and probably a bruised area around your eye to go with it.
But the eyes are delicate, and an injury might not be quite so obvious. You wouldn't normally think of rubbing your eyes as an injury, but the truth is, you can cause a blood vessel to burst if you were rubbing them hard enough or for long enough. Do you remember trying to rub dust or an eyelash out of your eye the day before you noticed the blood? That may have been the cause.
If you can't pinpoint an injury, you might want to consider the possibility that physical strain caused the blood vessels to break. Did you notice the blood in your eye after rearranging your living room furniture or helping a friend move to a new home? Or after a particularly heavy weightlifting session in the gym?
If so, you might simply have been straining too hard, which can rupture blood vessels in places that you wouldn't expect, like your eyes. In some cases, even seemingly innocuous things like coughing, sneezing, or laughing hard can cause your blood vessels to burst.
Sometimes, burst blood vessels may be a sign of an eye infection, like conjunctivitis. If you have an eye infection, there are usually clear signs of it other than broken blood vessels. Were the whites of your eyes pink or red before you noticed the blood? If your eyes have been itchy or water during the day or sticky in the morning when you wake up, you probably have an eye infection known as pinkeye.
While pinkeye isn't particularly dangerous, it is highly contagious, and you need antibiotics as soon as possible. Take any itching, discharge, or discomfort that accompanies a burst blood vessel as a sign that you need to visit your doctor.
The blood that you see in your eyes will go away on it's own, and if it was caused by strain or a minor injury and isn't accompanied by any other symptoms, you usually don't need to see a doctor. You should, however, consult your eye doctor right away if you begin to experience frequent burst blood vessels, or if the blood isn't contained only to the white areas of your eye.
Contact a company such as Cripe Stephens & Stickel with any questions or concerns you have.