Overview: Red Spot on Eye
Red spots can easily develop and appear on the whites of your eyes.
Although a red spot on the eyeball is typically harmless, it's recommended to consult a doctor. This rules out any potentially serious conditions, even if you believe you know the cause.
Often, a red spot results from a subconjunctival hemorrhage, which is a broken blood vessel.
7 Potential Causes of Red Spot on Your Eye
A red spot on the eye is typically harmless. However, there are some conditions your eye doctor will consider if you develop a red mark on your eye:
1. Eye Injury
An eye injury can cause bleeding, resulting in a red spot on the eye. For example, you may get poked in the eye, or something may fly into it.
Even mild trauma, like rubbing your eyes slightly too hard, can lead to broken capillaries and red spots. To avoid eye injury, consider wearing protective eye wear at work or while playing sports if you are exposed to flying objects or debris.
2. Subconjunctival Hemorrhage (Broken Blood Vessel)
In most cases, a red spot on your eye is a small blood vessel that bursts open. This is a subconjunctival hemorrhage.
When one of the tiny blood vessels breaks open, the blood moves underneath the conjunctiva. In some circumstances, the blood can spread across the whole white of the eye. While this can be nerve-wracking, most people don't feel any pain, irritation, or light sensitivity.
Subconjunctival hemorrhages are similar to a bruise on your skin. However, the bright red color is significantly more visible because it is under the clear and transparent conjunctiva in front of your sclera.
There are many causes of subconjunctival hemorrhages. These include trauma, constipation, straining too much, lifting something hefty, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
3. Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy is not a typical cause of red spots in the eye. However, it's the most common cause of vision loss among people with various types of diabetes.
The condition results in retinal blood vessels leaking fluids or bleeding. Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include floaters and blurry vision.
The only way to determine if you have diabetic retinopathy is to see your eye doctor. If you have diabetes, schedule a comprehensive dilated eye exam annually or as your doctor advises.
4. Blood Pressure Spike
Anything that makes you strain can quickly and temporarily spike your blood pressure. Straining can potentially break a few capillaries in your eyes, leading to red spots.
Some examples of straining activities include:
- Bowel movements
- Heavy lifting
5. Contact Lens-Related Irritation
Even a speck of dust trapped behind your contact lenses can irritate the eye. If you respond by rubbing your eye, this can worsen the irritation and cause redness or broken blood vessels.
Remove the contact lens and clean it thoroughly if you feel something in your eye. Do not wear contact lenses longer than your eye doctor suggests. Always replace them when necessary.
Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes against wind, dirt, and outdoor debris. Use suitable eye protection for sports and other activities that could cause something to fly into your eye.
6. Blood Disorders
Sickle cell disease is an inherited bleeding disorder. It's characterized by chronic anemia and intermittent pain. Sickle cell disease is caused by abnormally shaped blood cells with problems transferring hemoglobin and oxygen throughout the body.
People with sickle cell disease sometimes have dilated or abnormal blood vessels in the conjunctiva. This is because of the sickling of red blood cells within small vessels. It can lead to tiny blockages.
It is rare, but developing blood clotting disorders such as hemophilia or von Willebrand disease can also increase the risk of red spots on the eyes.
7. Certain Medications
Some medications thin the blood, making it easier to bleed. This can occur if you frequently take aspirin or if you take interferons.
Other blood thinners include:
- Apixaban (Eliquis)
- Dabigatran (Pradaxa)
- Enoxaparin (Lovenox)
- Rivaroxaban (Xarelto)
- Warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven)
How Are Red Eye Spots Diagnosed?
Your doctor can diagnose a red spot on the eye by looking at it. You will likely require a comprehensive eye exam if you have symptoms that suggest something more serious. Your eye doctor may use tools like a slit lamp or an ophthalmoscope.
The doctor may also ask questions about your symptoms. Questions may include how long the spot has been present and if it's causing any pain or discomfort.
Some doctors may sample the fluid from the red spot and send it to a lab for testing. This can help determine if an infection causes the red spot.
Are Red Spots on the Eye a Medical Emergency?
Red spots on the eye are rarely a medical emergency. They usually indicate something that you can address with proper care and treatment.
However, if the red spot is accompanied by vision loss or severe pain, seek medical help immediately. This will help you overcome the present symptoms and address further complications.
How to Treat Red Spot on Eye
Here are ways to treat a red spot on the eye:
Cold compresses and artificial tears can keep the eye comfortable. This is in case any tissue elevates because of a larger hemorrhage.
A cherry red spot on your eye will typically clear up within a few days or weeks. Generally, treatment consists of a medical evaluation and reassurance that the red dot will disappear. If the bleeding is significant, it may take slightly longer than a week and turn a yellowish, bruise-type shade before fading.
If you have diabetic retinopathy, vision loss resulting from the medical condition can be irreversible. However, treatment can lower the risk of blindness by 95 percent.
Treatment for diabetic retinopathy includes:
- Injected or implanted corticosteroids
- Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) injections to prevent the protein that triggers the growth of abnormal, leaky blood vessels
- Laser treatment to lessen swelling and fluid leakage
- Eye surgery to repair a detached retina, remove scar tissue, or remove the vitreous (vitrectomy)
- Diabetes management
Various factors can cause red spots in the eye. Learning about the different causes and treatments can help you better understand how to manage the condition. Home remedies can keep the eye comfortable, while professional treatment may be necessary for more serious cases.
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