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The Basics

Hyphema photoHyphema is a pooling of blood in the fluid-filled front area, or anterior chamber, of the eye. The anterior chamber is located between the iris (the flat membrane that gives the eye color) and the inner surface of the cornea (the clear outermost layer of the eye). The anterior chamber contains a transparent gelatinous fluid called aqueous humor, which nourishes the eye and gives it shape. If blood collects in the anterior chamber, vision can be partially or completely blocked.  If left untreated, hyphema can potentially lead to permanent severe vision problems in the affected eye.

Symptoms of Hyphema

Hyphema - Blurring or cloud vision photoCommon symptoms of hyphema include:

  • Bleeding in the anterior chamber
  • Pain in the eye
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Abnormal ‘cloudy’ or blurred vision

The size of a hyphema can range from a small and undetectable spot to a highly noticeable collection of blood that impairs the vision.

Causes of Hyphema

Tennis racket photoMost frequently, hyphema is the result of a trauma to the eye, such as a sports injury or an accident. Other possible, but less common, causes include:

  • Medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia and blood clotting disorders
  • Inflammation of the iris
  • Abnormal blood vessels
  • Complications resulting from an artificial lens implant

Diagnosis of Hyphema at Our Huntington Beach Office

Hyphema - Diagnostic photoTo diagnose hyphema, the eye doctors at Beach Eye Medical Group will conduct a thorough examination of the eye that includes a full vision assessment, an intraocular pressure measurement (tonometry) and possibly an ultrasound. In cases of severe injury, our eye specialists may order a computerized tomography (CT) scan to evaluate the extent of any structural damage.

Treatment of Hyphema

  • Minor hyphema – If the hyphema is minor, it typically will resolve itself and the blood will be reabsorbed in a matter of days. Any discomfort can be treated with an aspirin-free over-the-counter pain medication.
  • Severe cases of hyphema – In more severe cases, steps need to be taken to minimize bleeding. Our Orange County eye specialists may recommend bed rest, wearing a protective eye patch, and limiting eye movement, including reading. To help facilitate the reabsorption of blood, patients may be advised to sleep with the head elevated. Eye drops may be used to control inflammation and reduce pressure. Our doctors may also dispense prescription medicine for pain management. In serious situations, it may be necessary to perform a surgical procedure to drain the excess blood and lower intraocular pressure. An overnight stay may be required.
  • Complications – Any case of hyphema should be closely monitored, particularly in individuals who are prone to complications due to other risk-increasing health conditions such as sickle cell anemia. The pressure caused by hyphema can increase the risk of glaucoma, a serious condition that results from optic nerve damage. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States.
  • The majority of cases of hyphema are attributed to sports injuries or occupational accidents. Active individuals and those in high-risk jobs can reduce the chances of trauma by wearing protective eye gear.

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