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Understanding Retinal Hemorrhage

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 4/25/2009

This article defines what a retinal hemorrhage is and discusses the causes and treatment. It discusses the causes of this condition in adults as well as infants.

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    What is a Retinal Hemorrhage?

    A retinal hemorrhage occurs when abnormal bleeding occurs within the blood vessels of the retina. The retina is a membrane that is located in the back of the eye. A retinal hemorrhage can be caused by either disease or an injury and can result in a permanent or temporary loss of visual acuity. Even the smallest injury to the blood vessels of the retina can result in vision problems because these blood vessels are very sensitive and dense. Certain diseases that affect a person's circulatory system can cause a retinal hemorrhage and some of these diseases include high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes.

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    Causes of Retinal Hemorrhage

    In adults, the causes of retinal hemorrhages are quite common and easy to understand. A forceful blow to the head can result in a retinal hemorrhage. Those who have been in an accident, been assaulted or have taken a fall in which they hit their head may experience a retinal hemorrhage. A disease called diabetic neuropathy can cause this condition as well. Those with hypertension may suffer from a retinal hemorrhage also. A less popular cause of retinal hemorrhage is a medical condition called central serous retinopathy.

    In children, the most common causes of retinal hemorrhages are shaken baby syndrome, child abuse and retinopathy of prematurity. Retinopathy of prematurity occurs in infants that were born prematurely and have a low birth weight. Premature infants' retinal blood vessels may not have matured so they may leak, become damaged easily or hemorrhage.

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    Diagnosing a Retinal Hemorrhage

    A retinal hemorrhage is typically diagnosed by an ophthalmologist. In cases of sudden injury, they can be diagnosed in an emergency or urgent care environment. The doctor will perform a visual exam of the eye to look for signs of trauma or indications of disease. They may also use a opthalmoscopy and/or an angiography (of the blood vessels in the retina). Other diagnostic tests include certain blood tests, a patient history and vision tests. The diagnostic course will depend on the underlying cause of the retinal hemorrhage.

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    Treatments for Retinal Hemorrhage

    There are a few different treatments for retinal hemorrhages. The most common form of treatment is laser eye surgery. This will repair the retinal hemorrhage. In those who experience a retinal hemorrhage due to another medical condition, the underlying condition will need to be treated first. Once the underlying condition is under control, laser surgery to repair the retinal hemorrhage can be performed.

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    Sources

    Unknown author. (2009). Retinal Hemorrhage. Retrieved on April 23, 2009 from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Retinal+hemorrhage