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What causes broken blood vessels in the eyes?

Woman getting an eye exam - Broken blood vessel in the eye
Broken blood vessels in the eyes usually clear up on their own in a few weeks.

Broken blood vessels in your eyes may be alarming and make you feel self-conscious, but they’re usually nothing to worry about.

“They generally aren’t even irritating to the patient,” said Dr. Asha Okorie, a Marshfield Clinic ophthalmologist. “Some people don’t realize it happened.”

Broken blood vessels don’t have a known cause most of the time. However, trauma such as poking yourself in the eye, or increase in abdominal pressure from sneezing or coughing can cause them. People who use blood thinners or take aspirin regularly may experience broken blood vessels. Occasionally they may happen during a pinkeye infection.

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You generally can’t prevent broken blood vessels in your eyes other than by trying to avoid eye trauma. The redness usually clears up in two or three weeks, and you can’t do anything to speed up the process. No eye drops or medical treatments immediately clear up broken blood vessels.

Know when to get medical help

Get your eye checked if the broken blood vessels were caused by trauma and you’re having vision problems or redness in your iris or pupil.

Talk to your doctor if broken blood vessels happen often or take longer than two or three weeks to heal. Your eyes could be showing signs of high blood pressure or a bleeding disorder.

If you take blood-thinning medication, ask your doctor if you can do anything to prevent broken blood vessels in your eyes.

Broken blood vessels aren’t related to chronic red eyes

Having chronic red eyes doesn’t mean you’re at greater risk for broken blood vessels.

“Chronic red eyes generally aren’t very serious but you should get an eye exam to see if you need medical treatment,” Okorie said.

Allergies and dry eyes are common causes of redness. The solution may be as simple as taking medication to control your allergies or choosing glasses over contact lenses to reduce dryness.

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