What Causes Broken or Burst Blood Vessels in the Eyes?
A broken blood vessel in the eye is known as a sub-conjunctival haemorrhage. It can look pretty horrific (as in the above image), but it will not cause any damage to your eyesight. It is, however, cosmetically unpleasant.
Normally, the first thing you will notice is an unsightly red patch over part, or all, of the white of your eye. Most of the time they will appear with no apparent cause (although, they can be triggered by trauma to the eye amongst other things that I shall cover below). More often than not, you will not feel any pain or sensation when you have experienced a sub-conjunctival haemorrhage, although occasionally you might feel a slight stinging or irritation.
The leaked blood is held in place by the conjunctiva, (a thin membrane that covers the surface of your eye). The conjunctiva does not cover the iris of the eye though, so it is impossible for the leaked blood to interfere with your vision.
If your sub-conjunctival haemorrhage has been caused by trauma to the eye, such as a punch, a tennis ball, squash ball, etc., you should immediately seek the advice of your doctor in case any other damage has been caused.
Other causes for a sub-conjunctival haemorrhage include high blood pressure, constipation, stress, coughing or sneezing excessively, and on rare occasions, they can be associated with blood clotting problems in people taking aspirin, anticoagulents, or people who already have a history of blood clotting disorders.
Most of the time you will not need to take any action to get rid of the broken blood vessel in your eye. Like a bruise, it will gradually change colour and vanish over the next few days or weeks (depending on the severity of the bleed). It may take a little longer than a normal bruise to disappear because the conjunctiva is so thin that a certain amount of oxygen can still get to the blood.
High Blood Pressure
This is the most common cause of broken blood vessels in the eyes (as well as many other health problems including heart attacks, strokes etc.). It is crucial that you do everything in your power to keep your blood pressure down at healthy levels, and apart from obvious factors such as eating a heart healthy diet and regular exercise, you can also include some natural supplements in your diet such as garlic capsules, hawthorn, or folic acid. (Always consult your doctor before taking any supplements.)
A Heart Healthy Diet
5 portions of any fruit or vegetables per day (canned, fresh frozen etc)
2 portions of fish per week, at least one of which should be oily such as mackerel, trout or salmon
Cereal, rice, and pasta
Chemical food additives such as MSG
Another common cause of subconjunctival hemorrhages is constipation. The straining involved in passing a stubborn bowel movement can cause blood vessels to rupture—not just in the eyes, but also in the anus (causing hemorrhoids).
To avoid constipation:
- Always make sure you drink plenty of water.
- Try to include plenty of fibre in your diet in the form of fruit and vegetables.
- Regular exercise can also keep things "moving," so if nothing else, try to take a brisk 10 minute walk every day.
- Train yourself to go to the toilet and pass a bowel movement every morning. The longer you leave the stool in the bowel, the harder it will be to ultimately pass it at all.
- Try taking additives such as Triphala which consists of three herbs: amla (emblica officinalis), harada (terminalia chebula), and behada (terminalia belerica).
- Avoid certain foods dairy products, red meats, fried foods, and chips.
Stress is often difficult to avoid as we have to go through our day to day lives facing bills, sick relatives, pressures at work etc, but you can help to minimise the stress this causes you in a number of ways.
How to deal with stressful situations:
- Avoid the situation.
- Adapt to the situation.
- Alter the situation.
- Accept the situation.
Coughing and Sneezing
Needless to say we all cough and sneeze at one time or another. It is not something you can really do much about unless it is happening to an inappropriate degree, (in which case, you should consult your GP). Obviously, if you have a bad cold then you are going to snuffle, sneeze, and cough, so the best thing you can do is try to take lots of Vitamin C, stay warm, and (if possible) take some cough medicine that will reduce the symptoms of a cold until you have fully recovered.
Don't panic! This condition does not mean that you are in imminent danger of a stroke or that you have developed a brain tumour. It is, in fact, very common and can happen for no apparent reason whatsoever. It might look a bit unsightly for a while, but it will soon vanish leaving you none the worse for your experience.
Mayo Clinic Staff. "Subconjunctival Hemorrhage (Broken Blood Vessel in Eye)." October 2016. MayoClinic. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
Boyd, Kierstan. "What Is a Subconjunctival Hemorrhage?" Last reviewed September 1, 2016. The American Academy of Opthamology. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
Kenny, Tim, MD. "What Is a Subconjunctival Haemorrhage?" Last checked December 2016. Patient.Info. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
Lusby, Franklin W., MD. "Subconjunctival Hemorrhage." Last reviewed November 2015. University of Maryland Medical Centre. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.