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Blood in the Eye (Hyphema)

What is hyphema or blood in the eye?

Hyphema is blood in the front (anterior) chamber of the eye. This section is where fluid flows in and out. The fluid gives nourishment to the eye and tissues around it.

What causes blood in the eye?

Blood in the eye is often caused by a trauma to the eye. It can also happen without a known cause in children who don’t have other health issues.  

Who is at risk for blood in the eye?

Males are 3 to 5 times more likely than females to get blood in the eye.

What are the symptoms of blood in the eye?

Symptoms include blood visible in the eye. This often happens after some type of trauma to the eye.

The symptoms of blood in the eye may look like other eye conditions or health problems. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is blood in the eye diagnosed?

Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s health history. He or she will also give your child an eye exam. Blood is seen in the eyeball.

How is blood in the eye treated?

Blood in the eye is an emergency. If you see blood in your child’s eye, get medical help right away.

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

Most children with blood in the eye will be treated in an emergency room. An eye doctor (ophthalmologist) may care for your child. Treatment may include:

  • Eye drops
  • A patch over the affected eye
  • Bed rest
  • No reading. This is to rest the eye.
  • Raising the head of your child’s bed by about 40 degrees. This can help your child’s body reabsorb the blood in the eye.
  • Checking the pressure inside your child’s eye each day

What are the complications from blood in the eye?

The following issues may be caused by blood in the eye:

  • The injury may bleed again
  • Glaucoma. This is an increase in the pressure inside of the eye. Children with glaucoma should be closely watched by their healthcare providers. This condition can cause vision loss or blindness if left untreated.
  • Permanent loss of vision
  • Damage to different structures in the eye

Key points about blood in the eye

  • Hyphema is blood in the front chamber of the eye.
  • Blood in the eye is often caused by a trauma to the eye. It can also happen without a known cause.
  • Blood in the eye is an emergency. Your child will likely be treated in the emergency room.
  • If left untreated, blood in the eye can cause permanent vision loss.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.
  • Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.

Medical Reviewers:

  • Berry, Judith, PhD, APRN
  • Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.