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A hyphema is a pooling or collection of blood inside the anterior chamber of the eye (the space between the cornea and the iris). The blood may cover most or all of the iris and the pupil, blocking vision partially or completely.
A hyphema is usually painful. If left untreated, it can cause permanent vision problems.
A hyphema is usually caused by trauma to the eye and is accompanied by an increase in intraocular pressure (the pressure inside the eye). However, it may appear without warning in children who have other medical conditions such as sickle cell anemia or hemophilia.
Immediate medical attention is needed if hyphema occurs. The best way to prevent hyphema is to wear eye protection when playing sports. Also, never take an eye injury lightly. Even if there is no bleeding, check in with your eye doctor.
The symptoms of a hyphema are relatively simple. They include:
Your doctor will first want to get a complete medical history to see if you recently experienced eye trauma or if you have any other conditions that could lead to bleeding in your eye. After conducting a physical exam of the eye area, your doctor will use one of the following methods to diagnose a hyphema:
The most common cause of hyphema is eye trauma, usually from a sports injury, home or workplace accident, or fall. A hyphema can also be caused by:
If your hyphema is mild, it can heal on its own in about one week. You can treat any pain you experience with over-the-counter pain medication that does not contain aspirin. Aspirin should be avoided because it thins the blood, and that could increase bleeding. Your doctor will decide how to treat your hyphema based on a variety of factors, including:
Once your doctor has collected this information, he or she will be able to choose among the following treatments:
One of the most serious complications of hyphema is an increase in eye pressure. If a hyphema results in dangerously high eye pressure, your doctor may operate to remove excess blood. The threshold for intraocular pressure will be lower for someone with sickle cell disease.
Pressure in the eye builds up because blood from the hyphema can clog the eye’s drainage canal. This may lead to the kind of long-term damage associated with glaucoma. Glaucoma is a lifelong condition that will require more serious treatment. Your doctor will normally examine your drainage canal to see if any long-term damage has occurred. Then they will decide on any follow-up treatment.
Written by: Shannon Johnson
Medically reviewed on: Oct 04, 2016: Deborah Weatherspoon, PhD, MSN, RN, CRNA
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