What is a red spot on the eye?
A red spot on the eye can be alarming, but it is probably not as serious as it sounds. One or more tiny blood vessels in the eye may have broken and are leaking. This is called a subconjunctival hemorrhage. It can happen after something as simple as an unexpected cough or sneezing attack.
Despite appearances, you probably won’t feel anything. It is usually harmless and goes away without treatment. Read on to learn about approximately the causes of red eye spots, plus signs that it could be somewhat more serious.
Causes of red spot on the eye
Bloodshot eyes appear red because the vessels on the surface of the white portion of the eye (sclera) become inflamed. The vessels can swell due to:
- Eye dryness
- Too much sun exposure
- Dust or other particles in the eye
Eye infections or irritation can cause redness, as healthy as possible itching, discharge, pain, or vision problems. These may be due to:
- Blepharitis: Swelling along the edge of the eyelid.
- Conjunctivitis: Swelling or infection of the transparent tissue that lines the eyelids and covers the surface of the eye (the conjunctiva). This is often known as “conjunctivitis.”
- Corneal ulcers: Sores on the cornea that are most often caused by a serious bacterial or viral infection.
- Uveitis: Inflammation of the uvea, counting the iris, ciliary body, and choroid. The cause is most often unknown. It can be related to an autoimmune disorder, infection, or exposure to toxins. The type of uveitis that causes the worst red eyes is called iritis, in which only the iris becomes inflamed.
Other possible causes of red eyes include:
- Colds or allergies
- Acute glaucoma: A sudden increase in pressure in the eye that is extremely painful and causes serious visual problems. This is a medical emergency. The most common form of glaucoma is long-term (chronic) and gradual.
- Scratches on the cornea: Injuries caused by sand, dust or excessive use of contact lenses.
Sometimes a cheerful red spot called a subconjunctival hemorrhage, will appear on the white of the eye. This usually occurs after straining or coughing, which causes a blood vessel on the surface of the eye to rupture. Most of the time, there is no pain and your vision is normal. It is almost never a serious problem. Because blood leaks into the conjunctiva, which is clear, the blood cannot be cleaned or rinsed. Like a bruise, the red spot will disappear in a week or two.
- Try to rest your eyes if the redness is due to fatigue or eye strain. No other treatment is needed.
- If you have eye pain or a vision problem, call your ophthalmologist right away.
Treatment of red spot on the eye
Subconjunctival hemorrhages do not usually require treatment. The healing time can vary from a few days to a few weeks, contingent on the size of the stain. Persons can use false tears to relieve irritation or dryness. Artificial tears are available at drugstores, pharmacies, and online.
A doctor may recommend antibiotic eye drops if the red spot is the result of a bacterial infection. People should not be alarmed if the red spot on the eye changes colour from red to yellow or orange. This is a sign that the bleeding is healing. Like a bruise, it can slowly fade over time.
Treatments for diabetic retinopathy or red spot on the eye include:
- Injectable medications to reduce swelling
- Laser eye surgery to close leaky blood vessels
- Vitrectomy or surgery that involves the removal of vitreous gel and blood from the back of the eye
Diagnosis of red spot on the eye
Your physician can diagnose a subconjunctival hemorrhage just by looking at it. If you have symptoms that suggest something else, you will probably need a comprehensive eye exam.
Your doctor should evaluate any underlying problems, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. If it looks like you have hyphema, your doctor may want to monitor the pressure in your eye or do a CT scan to see if there is any less visible damage.