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Blood In My Eye

Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

This morning when I woke up and looked in the mirror there was bright red blood in the white of my left eye. It wasn't oozing, and didn't involve the colored part of my eye, just a collection of blood on the white part of my eye, covering the whole side of my eyeball. There's no pain or anything. My vision is completely normal. But it looks scary. I was perfectly fine when I went to bed. What's wrong with me?



Dear Concerned,

You need to be examined by your physician, with an appropriate referral to an ophthalmologist, if your doctor feels this is necessary. Remember, our purpose is not to diagnose online but to provide a forum for learning.

Most people who wake up with a problem such as you describe have a "subconjunctival hemorrhage." This is a relatively common complaint. These occur when a minute droplet of blood leaks from one of the tiny blood vessels that run along the surface of the white of the eye.

It can look big and scary, because the tiny droplet of blood spreads out forming a thin layer underneath the transparent membrane that covers the surface of the eye. The crimson projected against the white of the eye makes a minuscule amount of blood look worrisome indeed!

Subconjunctival hemorrhages are generally harmless, in and of themselves, sometimes occurring from minor trauma to the eye during sleep, such as rubbing against a pillow case or a finger poke. Sometimes they occur spontaneously for unclear reasons. They are reabsorbed by the body over a period of days, without any treatment. Sometimes they leave a small brown speck, but usually there's no remnant at all.

Caution: subconjunctival hemorrhage can also be a complication of blood thinning medications, a sign of a bleeding disorder, high blood pressure or other medical problems.

So, anyone who wakes up with an eye problem needs to be seen right away by his or her doctor or an emergency room. They're well equipped to rule out serious conditions. Your vision is too important to do otherwise!