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Burst Blood Vessels in the Eye: When to See a Doctor

Seeing a spot of red in your otherwise white eyeball can be alarming. Many of us refer to these as burst blood vessels in the eye—the technical term for it being “subconjunctival hemorrhage.” In other words, it’s a delicate blood vessel in your eye that has broken—for one reason or another. Often, this condition looks more alarming than it really is, but when should you see a doctor?

What causes broken blood vessels?

Burst blood vessels in the eye happen when a tiny blood vessel breaks just underneath the conjunctiva, which is the clear surface of your eye. The exact cause of them is unknown, but it is suspected that instances of increased blood pressure such as sneezing or coughing violently, heavy lifting or even laughing forcefully can lead to this condition.

In other instances, burst blood vessels in the eye can be caused by:

  • Rubbing the eye intensely
  • The use of blood-thinning medications or aspirin
  • Eye infections or trauma
  • Eye surgery

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom of burst blood vessels in the eye is a pretty obvious one—seeing a bright red, bloody-looking patch on the white (sclera) of your eye. Again, typically the sight of it is the most startling thing about it, as it normally does not cause any pain, discharge or changes to vision. Slight irritation, in the form of a scratchy feeling, can sometimes occur.

Treatment and when to see a doctor

In most cases, burst blood vessels in the eye heal themselves over the course of a few days up to two weeks. Eye drops can be used to treat symptoms like itchiness due to irritation.

The time to call a doctor is when symptoms exist beyond just this slight irritation. Discharge, swelling, sudden changes in vision and/or sharp pain are all signals that there may be a deeper issue, and your optometrist should make an assessment. Also, if the broken vessel does not clear up within 14 days, it might be a good idea to have it checked.


Though you might not like what you see in the mirror when you are dealing with a subconjunctival hemorrhage, the appearance is typically the worst part about it. However, pay attention to any abnormal symptoms of burst blood vessels in the eye to make sure a more severe condition is not going unnoticed.

From broken blood vessels to your annual eye exams, Mississippi Eye Care has you covered! Make an appointment at your local Mississippi Eye Care clinic today. In the meantime, continue to educate yourself on eye health by reading our blog!