We’ve all been there, whether it’s a big sneeze or a deep cough, when suddenly – POP – a blood vessel breaks in our eye. This unsightly red spot is called a subconjunctival hemorrhage, and it is completely harmless. Sure, it may look less than pleasant, but it’s extremely common. However, there is another kind of bleeding that can sometimes happen in our eyes that we should be concerned about. This bleeding is called a hyphema, and it is serious.

What is a Hyphema?

Hyphema is the bleeding of a broken blood vessel that causes blood to pool in the space between the cornea and the iris. The more blood that collects, the more serious the hyphema and the higher the risk of vision loss and long-term eye damage.

Symptoms of a Hyphema

Symptoms of a hyphema include:

  • Blood in the eye
  • Blurry vision
  • Pain in your eye
  • Light sensitivity
  • Headaches

There can be serious complications if left untreated. Blood clots can damage the eye and lead to glaucoma or even permanent vision loss. It is not a risk you should be willing to take. If you think you have a hyphema, contact your care provider immediately.

What causes a hyphema?

Trauma to the eye is the most common cause of hyphema. If you get a black eye, it is important to have the injury assessed to be sure that nothing more serious has taken place. While rare, hyphema can also happen spontaneously, particularly in individuals who are taking blood thinners or have hemophilia (a blood clotting disorder). People with diabetes also have an increased risk of developing hyphema spontaneously.

How is it treated?

The specific treatment depends on the severity of the hyphema. In most cases, limited physical activity and an eye shield are recommended. In some cases, pain medication and anti-inflammatory medicine are prescribed. For severe cases, surgery may even be required.

Can they be prevented?

Simple precautions like protective eyewear can help to reduce your risk of hyphema. Since most cases occur from an injury, you can avoid the risk with relative ease. If you play a sport such as baseball, softball, racquetball, hockey, or boxing, make sure to have sport glasses or headgear that protects your eyes and face.

All in all, hyphema can be a serious medical condition, but can generally be avoided with simple precautions. If you think you may have hyphema, contact New View Eye Center in Reston, VA. Your health is too important to risk. New View also serves the greater Washington, DC area.