Hyphema is a pooling of blood in the interior part of the eye, the space between the iris and cornea. Trauma inside the eye, even from a minimal injury, can cause the condition, which may or may not be painful. Hyphema is most common among athletes involved in activities such as basketball. It increases the intracellular pressure of the eye, and as a result, internal bleeding may occur. If not treated in time, hyphema can block the vision partially or completely.
The most common cause is eye injury due to an accident that causes the interior chamber of the eye to accumulate blood. If there is an encroachment of abnormal blood vessels in the surface of the iris, the vessels can bleed into the surface of the eye, causing partial blindness. Eventually, blood may cover the entire iris, resulting in hyphema. The condition may also develop due to postsurgical bleeding after cataracts surgery.
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Someone may experience blurred eyesight due to accumulated blood in the front of the eye. The blood can block light from entering the eye. A common symptom is a sharp pain in the mid-eye resulting from high pressure originating in the inner eye. Most people complain of eye sensitivity when exposed to intense light. The condition also brings a cramp-like ache known as ciliary body spasm.
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People involved in vigorous exercise are most prone to this condition, as rigorous workouts cause eye injuries that can lead to the condition. Those with high blood pressure can also develop it when the pressure from inner eye builds to the mid-eye.
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Advanced cases of become visible through unaided observation of the eye. The iris appears red due to blood deposited there. Sometimes, the blood spot is tiny, and as a result, the doctor may require magnification to detect it. In some cases, a large amount of blood covers the entire interior chamber of the eye. As a result, the iris appears swollen, a stage known as “complete” or "eight ball hyphema." In this stage, vision is completely obscured.
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This condition can cause a lot of damage if not detected and treated early. The most severe complication of hyphema is an increase in pressure in the eye. In such cases, immediate action must be taken to alleviate the pressure before unalterable complications develop.
The doctor will carry out a physical eye exam and enquire into the visual medical history of the patient to determine whether eye trauma has occurred that could lead to blood pooling in the eye. Then, he or she may test eyesight strength with a more comprehensive exam including scans and testing eye pressure.
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Since this condition manifests due to pressure in the eyes, the doctor may prescribe pressure-lowering medicines such as those prescribed to people with glaucoma. The medication may be in the form of eye drops or pills. The proper dose should alleviate pressure within a few weeks. If the individual is experiencing a cramping sensation in the inner eye, subjecting the iris to an endless motion, secondary hemorrhage can occur. In this case, the optician will administer dilating drops. Severe cases can be treated with anti-inflammatory eye drop or pills.
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Following the development and treatment of hyphema, it is advisable to schedule regular eye checkups. Should the pressure in the eye persist beyond the medication, doctors may do surgery to extract the blood that has pooled in the iris.
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An accidental injury to the eye is the most common cause of blood pooling in the eye, and the easiest to prevent. When participating in activities in which damage to the eye is possible -- such as basketball and other sports, or wood or metalworking -- always use protective eyewear.
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