Updated on 

April 5, 2022

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Popped Blood Vessel in Eye

What Causes a Popped Blood Vessel in the Eye?

Subconjunctival hemorrhage is the medical term for a popped blood vessel in the eye.

These are common. It’s rarely serious and usually resolves on its own without medical attention.

Most of the time, a sudden increase in blood pressure causes the blood vessel to burst. This creates a splash of bright red blood on the eye’s sclera.

However, there are times when a popped blood vessel in the eye is a symptom of something more serious. 

A variety of issues or events can cause a popped blood vessel in the eye, including:

  • A powerful sneeze or violent coughing
  • Severe vomiting
  • Muscle straining from heavy lifting
  • Trauma or injury
  • Small foreign objects
  • Contact lenses
  • Eye surgery complications
  • Eye infections
  • Medicinal side effects
  • Secondary complications from another medical problem

Identifying the cause of a popped blood vessel in your eye determines if there is a serious problem.

For example, if you’ve been sick with a head cold and sneezing, and you wake up with a red spot in your eye, chances are the two issues are linked. The popped blood vessel will resolve on its own as your cold improves.

Sometimes eyes are bloodshot and there isn’t really a broken blood vessel. Popped blood vessels are usually not indicative of eye disease.

If you don’t remember coughing or sneezing shortly before the popped blood vessel appeared, speak to an optometrist or eye doctor.

Contact a healthcare professional if you’re experiencing vision changes or vision problems in addition to redness in the white part of the eye. This helps you determine if an additional medical evaluation is needed immediately.


When a blood vessel pops in the eye, this causes blood to pool on the sclera. This is called subconjunctival hemorrhage. It is usually caused by straining, trauma, a powerful sneeze or cough, or an infection. This typically resolves after a few days. If it persists, seek medical attention.

Can You Prevent a Busted Blood Vessel in the Eye?

Sometimes, depending on the cause.

Taking precautions to protect your eyes is the best way to prevent problems.

Some of the precautionary measures you should take include: 

  • Wearing protective eyewear when participating in sports or being in a dangerous environment
  • Wearing sunglasses
  • Avoiding violent sneezing and coughing if possible and if it won’t cause strain
  • Avoiding activities likely to make you vomit if possible, such as heavy drinking
Popped Blood Vessel in Eye

How to Get Rid of a Popped Blood Vessel in Eye

Most of the time popped blood vessels clear up on their own over time.

If your eye is uncomfortable or in pain, over-the-counter aspirin-free pain relief medications can help. You can use over-the-counter eye moisturizing drops if your eyes feel dry.

If the popped blood vessel is caused by trauma or injury, your doctor might prescribe antibiotic drops or medication to reduce the risk of infection.

Medication is also needed if the subconjunctival hemorrhage is due to infection. 


To prevent a busted blood vessel in the eye, refrain from doing strenuous activities that involve heavy lifting. Also, wear sunglasses or protective eyewear when needed. OTC aspirin-free pain relief medications and moisturizing drops may help popped blood vessels. Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics when the condition is caused by trauma or an infection.

When to Be Concerned About a Bleeding Eye

There are some circumstances in which a bleeding eye or popped blood vessel is a reason to see an eye doctor.

For example, if the cause of the bleeding is due to any type of injury or hyphema, you should see your doctor.

Hyphema involves blood pooling into the space between the cornea and iris. It replaces the usual liquid occupying that space. The condition varies in severity but can be serious and cause blindness.

Blunt force trauma to the eye, blood clotting disorders, diabetes, blood-thinning medications, and eye tumors cause hyphema.

You should speak to your doctor if you take blood thinners or have a bleeding disorder.

Seeing red on the surface of your eye probably isn’t a cause for concern. But good eye care is an important part of your overall health.

Recurrent subconjunctival hemorrhages could be a sign of a more serious medical problem.

Burst Blood Vessel in Eye Treatment

Seeing blood in the eye is scary, but it does not usually cause a reason for alarm. 

Most blood from a subconjunctival hemorrhage is reabsorbed into your body within a week after the initial eye injury. Larger burst blood vessels can take even longer to resolve.

If you experience pain or discomfort, over the counter (OTC) non-blood thinning pain relief medications are appropriate.

Some doctors also recommend using moisturizing eye drops or artificial tears.

In some cases, antibiotic drops or ointments are needed. 

Read More: Conjunctiva

Common Questions and Answers

Can stress cause you to pop a blood vessel in your eye?

Stress can indirectly cause a popped blood vessel in your eye. Stress won’t cause a blood vessel to burst, but things associated with stress – especially crying – are common causes of subconjunctival hemorrhage.

Does a broken blood vessel in the eye get worse before it gets better?

Sometimes, or at least it will seem to worsen before it begins healing. This is the case if you notice the issue immediately after it begins. Contact your doctor if the problem continues to worsen over days or looks worse after several days of improvement.

Hot or cold compress for a broken blood vessel in the eye?

Both hot and cold compresses can be used to ease the discomfort of a burst blood vessel in the eye. Use a cold compress in the first 24 hours after you notice the problem. Then switch to warm compresses. Compresses can be used up to three times per day for about 10 to 15 minutes.

3 Cited Research Articles
  1. JT, Shepherd, et al. “Effect of Cold on the Blood Vessel Wall.” General Pharmacology, 1983, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6131011/.
  2. “What Can You Do for a Broken Blood Vessel in the Eye That Won’t Go Away?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 1 Aug. 2018, www.aao.org/eye-health/ask-ophthalmologist-q/what-can-you-do-broken-blood-vessel-in-eye-that-wo.
  3. “Eyes May Provide Window To Future Strokes.” ScienceDaily, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051011073256.htm.
Melody Huang is an optometrist and freelance health writer. Through her writing, Dr. Huang enjoys educating patients on how to lead healthier and happier lives. She also has an interest in Eastern medicine practices and learning about integrative medicine. When she’s not working, Dr. Huang loves reviewing new skin care products, trying interesting food recipes, or hanging with her adopted cats.
Kelly Brown is a content writer for Vision Center. Her goal is to share important information so people can make the best decisions about their vision health. From choosing the best eye doctor to managing health issues that affect vision, she hopes to share what she learns through informative content.
Author: Kelly Brown  | UPDATED April 5, 2022
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Medical reviewer: Dr. Melody Huang, O.D.
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Dr. Melody Huang, O.D.
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The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.

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