What is a Retinal Hemorrhage?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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A retinal hemorrhage is the medical term given when the retina of the eye begins to bleed due to ruptured blood vessels. The retina is the portion of the eye that is sensitive to light and is located on the back portion of the eye. There can be several potential causes of a retinal hemorrhage, including sudden physical trauma, diabetes, or high blood pressure. Symptoms may include cloudy vision or other types of visual impairment, depending on the severity of the injury. Treatment is typically aimed at diagnosing and treating the original cause of the bleeding, although surgery is frequently required.

Physical trauma is a common cause of retinal hemorrhage. This trauma typically results from a sudden head injury, such as may occur from an automobile accident or as the result of physical abuse. Retinal hemorrhage is particularly common in children as a sign of shaken baby syndrome. There are often other types of head injuries present when the bleeding is the result of trauma. Some additional injuries may include skull fractures or brain damage.


Diabetes may lead to a condition known as diabetic retinopathy, which can cause retinal hemorrhage. Diabetic retinopathy causes damage to the blood vessels in the eye, often leading to blocked or inflamed blood vessels, which are prone to bleeding. There are often no noticeable symptoms of diabetic retinopathy until a significant amount of vision loss has already occurred. Those who do not manage diabetes effectively are the most prone to developing diabetic retinopathy.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, may lead to retinal hemorrhage in some cases due to a narrowing of the blood vessels in the eye. This usually occurs only when high blood pressure has gone untreated for a number of years. By receiving proper medical care and controlling high blood pressure, retinal hemorrhage from this cause can often be prevented.

Most cases of retinal bleeding do not require any specific medical treatment. In these cases, the primary medical focus is on treating the condition that originally caused the bleeding. Some patients may require minor surgery for retinal hemorrhage, which is normally performed on an outpatient basis. If there is a significant buildup of blood within the eye, the fluids of the eye may be removed and replaced with a saline solution in order to improve visual quality. In other cases, laser surgery may be performed in order to seal off the bleeding blood vessels.


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