What causes eye bleeding?

Eye bleeding is most often caused by injury to the eye, such as blunt trauma or penetration of something sharp into the eye. Other causes of eye bleeding include malformations of the blood vessels in the eye, cancer in the eye, or severe inflammation of the inner portions of the eye.

Common causes of subconjunctival hemorrhage

Subconjunctival hemorrhages that appear as red spots on the whites of the eyes may appear for no apparent reason and are typically not a serious problem. Certain factors can cause subconjunctival hemorrhages including:

  • Blood thinner medications
  • Choking episode
  • Extreme vomiting
  • Heavy lifting 
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Sneezing or coughing, especially if prolonged or violent

Common causes of hyphema

Eye bleeding may be the result of a variety of causes including:

  • Blunt trauma to the eye, such as such as being hit in the eye by a baseball or being injured in a car accident
  • Penetrating trauma to the eye, such broken glass or a nail sticking into your eye

Rare causes of eye bleeding

Eye bleeding can also rarely be caused by:

  • Cancer (arising within the eye or as a metastatic tumor)
  • Iritis (inflammation of the iris, the colored part of the eye)
  • Juvenile xanthogranuloma (leading cause of spontaneous hyphema in children)

Serious or life-threatening causes of eye bleeding

Because any injury to the eye can result in a permanent loss of vision, eye bleeding from any cause should be considered serious until proven otherwise and should be examined immediately by a physician.

Questions for diagnosing the cause of eye bleeding

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your eye bleeding including:

  • When did you first notice blood in your eye?
  • What were you doing at the time the bleeding first occurred?
  • Did anything happen that could have caused blood in your eye?
  • Is your eye painful?
  • Did the bleeding occur suddenly or slowly?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • Do you notice that your vision is affected?
  • Have you noticed any changes in your vision before the eye bleeding began?
  • Are you taking any medications?

What are the potential complications of eye bleeding?

Depending on the cause of eye bleeding, complications can vary from almost none to permanent loss of vision. Even scarring of the eye can alter your vision, so it is important to have your eye bleeding examined promptly.

Because eye bleeding can be due to serious injury or disease, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Chronic inflammation and scarring
  • Glaucoma
  • Impaired vision
  • Loss of vision and blindness
  • Loss of your eye


  1. Eye burning - itching and discharge. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003034.htm.
  2. Hyphema. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001021.htm.
  3. Walton W, Von Hagen S, Grigorian R, Zarbin M. Management of traumatic hyphema. Surv Ophthalmol 2002; 47:297.

What is eye bleeding?

Eye bleeding (hyphema) is bleeding inside the front chamber of your eye, and not from the surrounding eyelid or face. Eye bleeding can result in a red tinge, or even a pool of blood, inside the front portion of the eye between the clear cornea and the colored iris. The blood usually arises from a tear in a small artery inside the eye. The same force that tore a small artery can lead to other ... Read more about eye bleedingintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with eye bleeding?

Eye bleeding may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Common symptoms that may occur along with eye bleeding

Eye bleeding may accompany other symptoms including:

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Eyes and Vision

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