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What Causes a Broken Blood Vessel in the Eye?

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A woman with long, straight, black hair sitting in an office with a laptop, rubbing her eyes with both hands.

It can be alarming to look in the mirror and see that something’s wrong with your eyes. They’re extremely sensitive, after all, and plenty of different things can affect your vision. Have you ever looked in the mirror and noticed a red patch in your eye? If so, don’t worry—it’s likely a broken blood vessel. But what causes these?

Usually, a broken blood vessel is due to:

  • Trauma
  • Strenuous activity
  • High blood pressure
  • Medication
  • Eye infections
  • The aging process

In this blog post, we will explore the various causes of a broken blood vessel in the eye and provide you with valuable information to better understand your eye health.

What Is a Broken Blood Vessel?

The back of your eye is full of tiny little blood vessels. They help to carry nutrients and oxygen to and from the eye to keep it healthy. But these vessels are extremely small, and they can sometimes burst or break.

This causes small amounts of blood to pool underneath the conjunctiva—the thin transparent membrane that covers the surface of the eye. This often looks like a bright red patch in the whites of your eyes.

While it looks concerning, this is usually painless. And it rarely, if ever, affects your vision. Don’t worry! This blood eventually gets reabsorbed by the body and the redness disappears. So what causes this to happen?


One of the most common causes of a broken blood vessel in the eye is trauma. Remember: your eyes are extremely sensitive, and these blood vessels are extremely small. So any injury to the eyes, or anywhere surrounding them, can cause them to rupture.

Whether it’s caused by an accident, an injury, or even by rubbing your eye too hard, this can be fairly common. So remember to be careful and gentle with your eyes to avoid this!

Strenuous Activity

When you’re engaging in any intense physical activity, like weightlifting or playing sports, the increased blood flow and pressure in your body can cause a broken blood vessel in your eye. These activities often raise your blood pressure, which puts added strain on the tiny vessels in your eyes.

If this happens frequently, it’s important to consult with a doctor to make sure there are no underlying issues causing high blood pressure. It isn’t standard to experience broken blood vessels often, so a medical professional may be able to help.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can cause a host of problems. It’s often a sign that something is wrong and can cause other conditions to develop as well, like:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Kidney damage
  • Cognitive decline

And it can often cause damage to the blood vessels in the eye as well. They’re extremely delicate, and too much pressure on them can cause them to rupture. It’s important to regulate your blood pressure by following a healthy lifestyle to avoid developing any of the problems this condition can cause.


Certain medications can increase your likelihood of developing a broken blood vessel. They can affect the body’s ability to clot blood or may affect how fragile the vessels themselves are.

Some medications that can cause a broken blood vessel include:

  • Blood thinners
  • Antiplatelets
  • Corticosteroids
  • Thrombolytics
  • Blood pressure medication

If you’re taking these medications and noticing that you often have a burst blood vessel in the eye, speak with your healthcare provider. They may be able to explain the potential side effects and help find a solution.

Eye Infections

Infections, such as conjunctivitis—more commonly known as pink eye—can lead to irritation and inflammation in the eye. This inflammation can put additional strain on the blood vessels, which can eventually cause them to break.

It can help to:

  • Practice proper hygiene
  • Regularly wash your hands
  • Avoid touching your eyes
  • Regularly clean contact lenses, if you wear them

This can help avoid potentially transferring bacteria to your eye, lowering the risk of developing a burst blood vessel.

The Aging Process

As we age, our bodies constantly undergo changes—and the eyes are no exception. Over time, the blood vessels can become more fragile, making it much more likely that they’ll rupture. The tissue can thin, and the vessels become weaker.

This is why regular eye exams become more important with every passing year. It lets your optometrist detect potential problems early so they can recommend appropriate treatment!

Close-up of a woman undergoing a slit-lamp exam.

Come See Our Team

If you experience a broken blood vessel in the eye or have any concerns about your eye health, don’t hesitate to reach out to our dedicated team at Ladera Ranch Optometry now operated by Total Vision. Our experienced optometrists can check your eyes and treat problems accordingly. We’re here to help, so book an appointment with us today!

Written by Total Vision

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