A subconjunctival hemorrhage is a common birth injury for newborns, and is caused when blood vessels located in the eye rupture.
Subconjunctival hemorrhage, which can occur at any age but is most common in infants, is believed to be the result of trauma experienced during a stressful delivery.
Symptoms of Subconjunctival Hemorrhage
Most often, the symptom associated with subconjunctival hemorrhage is a red patch that appears to be in the white, or sclera, of the eye.
While the sclera itself is made of collagen, it has a limited blood supply, although blood vessels do pass through the eye white to serve other tissues.
The red patch associated with subconjunctival hemorrhage, which can in some cases cover the entire white of the eye, is caused by broken blood vessels in the bulbar conjunctiva, a protective layer of clear tissue that covers the sclera. Blood then leaks from the bulbar conjunctiva to the space between it and the sclera, because the conjunctiva is unable to quickly absorb lost blood.
The injury is the result of pressure caused to an infant’s body or head during the delivery process.
In most cases, the redness usually reveals itself within the first few hours following birth, and may worsen over the next day or so before beginning to recede.
It could be accompanied by mild pain that might make an infant fussy or irritable. Artificial tears may be used to help alleviate pain and/or irritation associated with the subconjunctival hemorrhage.
Causes of Infant Subconjunctival Hemorrhage
Many cases of subconjunctival hemorrhage are caused during labor, especially so a long, difficult delivery, when too much pressure is put on the infant during contractions, perhaps due to the use of labor-inducing drugs, which can trigger stronger contractions meant to speed up delivery.
It can also be the result of high blood pressure, which according to the National Institutes of Health can be caused by hormones, the strength of a baby’s heart and blood vessels and kidney health.
A subconjunctival hemorrhage can also be caused by medical error if a doctor uses too much force either manually extracting a baby from the birth canal during delivery, or through the improper use of forceps or vacuum exactors during a particularly difficult birth.
Is Subconjunctival Hemorrhage Dangerous?
While most cases of subconjunctival hemorrhage clear up on their own in a few weeks – the sclera will appear yellow before becoming white again – in rare cases, it can cause permanent eye damage.
Subconjunctival hemorrhage is often accompanied by other birth injuries such as Bell’s palsy or other forms of facial paralysis.
While most forms of infant facial paralysis will resolve themselves over time, just as the subconjunctival hemorrhage, in some cases they do not, resulting in future speech problems, difficulty expressing emotions and problems with chewing.
If Your Baby Suffered an Eye-Related Birth Injury, Contact an Attorney
An experienced injury attorney can be your greatest asset as a parent seeking answers as to why your baby’s delivery did not go as expected.
Birth injuries related to the misuse of assisted birthing devices can be serious and severe due to the levels of force and pressure exerted on your baby’s head during the delivery process, and subconjunctival hemorrhage may not be the only injury your child suffered during birth.
In fact, more severe injuries can be masked by the obvious injury of subconjunctival hemorrhage.
An attorney can help guide you through the process of determining the level of injury your baby sustained during birth and will help establish the cause of those injuries through the use of expert witnesses who can examine medical records and uncover what went wrong.
Our team is ready to answer your questions regarding your baby’s care and to help you recover damages that can cover the costs associated with your child’s medical care.
Your consultation is free, and you won’t be charged until we settle your case with an insurance company or win it in court.