Vitreous hemorrhage is the leakage of blood into the gel-like fluid of the eye. Blood in this fluid can interfere with vision.
A vitreous hemorrhage is usually caused by leakage of damaged or abnormal blood vessels in the back of the eye. The blood cells that leak into the vitreous humor reflect light that is entering the eye and distort vision.
Medical conditions and injuries that can cause damage to the blood vessels of the eye and vitreous hemorrhage include:
Blood in the gel of the eye scatters the light which may cause:
For some, vision problems are worse in the morning.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A hemorrhage may be suspected based on symptoms and risk factors.
A vitreous hemorrhage can usually be detected with a special tool called a slit-lamp. The lamp allows the doctor to look at the back of the eye to look for blood vessel leakage or damage. If a slit-lamp is not available, bleeding may be detected with ultrasound.
The vitreous blood usually resolves on its own without treatment. During this time, symptoms will be monitored for any changes.
Treatment of the cause may be necessary. For example, a change in glucose management may help with diabetic retinopathy or surgery may be needed for a retinal detachment.
Medications may be needed to relieve some of the bleeding. Options include:
A severe hemorrhage or bleeding that doesn’t stop on its own may need to be treated with surgery. Surgical options include:
To help reduce your chance of a vitreous hemorrhage:
Eye Smart—American Academy of Ophthalmology
National Eye Institute (NEI)
Canadian Association of Optometrists
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
Berdahl JP, Mruthyunjaya P. Vitreous hemorrhage: Diagnosis and treatment. American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Available at: http://www.aao.org/eyenet/article/vitreous-hemorrhage-diagnosis-treatment-2?march-2007. Accessed November 23, 2015.
Diabetic neuropathy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 21, 2015. Accessed November 23, 2015.
Kim DY, Joe SG, et al. Acute-onset vitreous hemorrhage of unknown origin before vitrectomy: Causes and prognosis. J Ophthalmol. 2015. [Epub ahead of print].
Retinal detachment. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 10, 2015. Accessed November 23, 2015.
Vitreous hemorrhage. Eye Institute website. Available at: http://www.eyeinstitute.co.nz/the-eye/eye-diseases-and-conditions/vitreous-haemorrhage.htm. Accessed November 23, 2015.
Last reviewed February 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.