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Bleeding in the Front of the Eye (Hyphema)

Hyphema is bleeding in the front part of your eye. The cornea is the clear cover on the front of your eye. The iris (the colored part of your eye) lies behind it. The space between them is called the anterior chamber. An injury to your eye can cause bleeding in this space.Cross section side view of front of eye showing blood in anterior chamber.

When to go to the emergency room (ER)

Hyphema is a medical emergency. Call your health care provider or go to the nearest hospital. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Bleeding in the front part of your eye, which often forms a layer as it settles. In severe cases, the entire anterior chamber is filled with blood.

  • Eye pain or nausea

  • Decreased vision (even a small amount of blood in the anterior chamber can make it hard to see)

What to expect in the ER

  • A health care provider will give you a complete eye exam, using a microscope with a bright light (a slit lamp microscope).

  • Your vision and the pressure within your eye will be checked.

  • Mild hyphema may be treated at home. You will need to limit your activity, keep your head raised, and use eye drops and an eye shield.

  • If bleeding is severe or your eye pressure increases, you may be admitted to the hospital for treatment. 

  • Hyphema often goes away on its own in time. If not, you may have a procedure to remove the blood from your eye.


If you’re treated at home, you are likely to see your provider each day for 3 to 5 days. You may then be checked several times over the next few weeks. This is crucial because bleeding may come back again even after treatment. Other parts of your eye may have been injured if trauma caused the bleeding. Traumatic hyphema raises your risk for increased eye pressure (glaucoma). For this reason, you should have routine eye exams for the rest of your life.


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