Have you ever had a broken blood vessel in your eye? This happened to me while I was away from home visiting my daughter. While I was up in the middle of the night with my infant granddaughter, my eye started to feel odd. I remember rubbing it, but didn’t think too much about it.
The next morning when I looked in the mirror, I was aghast! What happened to my eye? The white portion under the iris was completely bright red, and there were pink lines to the outside of the iris as well. As the day progressed, my sclera (the white portion) became more and more red and less and less white. It started to feel uncomfortable, like my allergies were acting up, but I was afraid to rub it considering how badly it looked.
By the afternoon my eye looked so bad that my daughter insisted we get it checked out, which we did by visiting a walk-in clinic. The doctor told me I had a subconjunctival hemmorhage, which was, in simple terms, a broken blood vessel in the eye. He explained that our skin bruises because the blood is released into the tissues just under the skin. However, when this happens to the eye, there really is no place for the blood to go, so it collects under the eyeball until it slowly dissipates back into the bloodstream. He said this could take a couple days or a couple weeks.
The doctor did stain my eye, then examined it under a bright light and lens to be sure I did not scratch the cornea or eyeball. He determined that my eye was fine, and he prescribed antibiotic eye drops which I was to use every 6 hours, and said to use the eye drops I have for allergies as well. He also said I could expect it to get worse before it gets better, and that it might turn a yellow color. The doctor sent me homw with a help sheet, which said I could use a heating pad to help relieve the redness.
It just so happened that Halloween was two days later, and I would have made the perfect monster! I am so glad no trick or treaters even came to our home because I would have scared them off. My entire eyeball was blood red in color. I thought it couldn’t get any worse, but then my other eye started to get some red spots on it and that freaked me out. I felt it was time to go to the doctor again, but this time I made an appointment with an ophthalmologist who came highly recommended.
In the ophthalmologist’s office, he had me read an eye chart, and then he put drops in my eyes to dilate the pupils. After a 30 minute wait in the “dilating room”, he examined my eyes, and gave me the good news that they looked very healthy. I told him I was very concerned that the other eye was also going to end up the same way, and he said it doesn’t happen very often, but some patients do have this kind of hemmorhaging in both eyes. As it turned out, my other eye never did get worse, just slightly pink.
My ophthalmologist gave me a pair of sunglasses to wear home, and luckily my daughter came along with me because once I stepped out into the bright sunshine I panicked. I remember saying “ouch, ouch, ouch!” and covering my eyes. My pupils were still completely dilated and this was painful. I quickly put the sunglasses on. I thought he had given them to me to cover up my very unattractive eye condition, but I needed them to protect my eyes from the sun.
Contrary to the “help sheet” I received from my first doctor, I was told not to use heat on my eye, but rather to apply some cold packs, which might help the pooling blood to dissipate. He said that the heat probably did more harm than good. Like the first doctor, the eye specialist also said it could take up to two weeks for my eyes to look normal again. In the end, it took about one week for most of the blood to absorb into my bloodstream, and my eye looked fine.
The eye doctor explained that there are several things that can cause broken blood vessels in the eye, or as he referred to it, a subconjunctival hemmorhage. Sneezing, coughing, rubbing the eyes, or even straining during childbirth or while going to the bathroom can all cause this condition. He also quizzed me for quite some time about all of the medications and supplements I was taking, stating that too much aspirin and certain herbs, like St John Wort, are suspected of being contributing factors.
He did note that my eyes were very dry, and said I should put artificial tears in my eyes a few times a day. He also gave me drops for itchy eyes, and said I didn’t need to take the antibiotics as often as the first doctor recommended. He advised that I use the artificial tears first, then a few seconds later use the drops for itchy eyes.
The entire experience was very unsettling. Of course it didn’t help that I was far away from home and from my own doctors. However, after it was all said and done, I truly felt like I over reacted. But when it comes to your vision, you don’t want to take any chances.
If you have other symptoms (pain, blurred vision, etc) aside from redness, I would recommend you visit your physician and get it checked out. If it is a simple broken blood vessel in the eye, don’t rub your eye, you will only irritate it more. You can use cold packs, or a cold washcloth if you don’t have any cold packs. You can try artificial tears and eye drops for relieving itchy eyes. Wearing sunglasses really helps because I really felt self conscious. Since I wear glasses, I purchased the type that are the same size as my lenses, which were less obvious than the large sunglasses the doctor gave me. If in doubt at all, see your doctor.