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Hyphema, blood inside the front part of the eye

Athletes are no strangers to injuries.  Many, especially those who play basketball, water sports, baseball, and racquet sports, believe it comes with the job or hobby. Sports and recreational activities account for more than 40,000 eye injuries each year in the United States.  That said, it is always good to know the difference between a minor eye injury and a major one, or if a minor injury could take a turn for the worse.

Corneal Abrasions

Corneal abrasions occur when foreign objects poke and ultimately scratch the surface of your eye. This includes everything from fingernails to sand or dust. Corneal abrasions, which are prone to turn into infections, can cause severe discomfort and sensitivity to light.  In the event of a corneal abrasion, see a doctor as soon as possible as there are types of fungi and bacteria that can pass into your eye and cause serious damage within hours.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhages

Subconjunctival hemorrhages occur when a tiny blood vessel breaks just underneath the surface of the eye, causing redness to appear in the white of the eye. This is typically minor and essentially a bruise that can be caused by getting bumped in the eye or even coughing. This is not to be confused with hyphema which is much more serious.


A hyphema is a collection of blood inside the front part of the eye. The blood may cover part or all of the iris. This type of injury is incredibly serious and typically due to orbital blowout fractures, which are cracks or breaks in the bones surrounding the eye. In this case, see a doctor immediately.

There are a number of signs and symptoms that require immediate attention. A few of these include:

  • Sudden loss of vision including a loss of field vision
  • Pain regarding movement of the eye
  • Irregularly shaped pupil
  • Halos around lights
  • Light flashes or floaters

About 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries are considered preventable. A pre-participation eye exam is helpful in identifying persons most at risk for eye injury. The eye doctors at Atlantic Eye Institute can be of further assistance in recommending sports gear to protect eyes.

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