What Is Haemolacria?

Extreme stress may cause haemolacria.
Lab testing may be required to identify mild cases of haemolacria.
Severe eye infections may cause haemolacria.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 08 December 2014
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Haemolacria refers to the presence of blood in the tears. Concentrations may be so low that it can only be detected with laboratory testing, or the patient may appear to be bleeding from the eyes due to the high blood content. It usually appears as a symptom of disease, although it can also develop spontaneously in some cases, particularly in fertile women. Research suggests that some women produce some blood in their tears in connection with the hormone cycle, and may be unaware of it because only traces are present.

Injuries to the eye can lead to haemolacria, as the eye or surrounding area may leak blood that mixes with the tears. Tumors and other lesions inside the eye and near the tear ducts are another possible cause. Inflammation and infection are also associated with haemolacria, as they can cause irritation severe enough for the capillaries to start leaking. A physical evaluation may reveal the underlying cause, and treatment should resolve the bloody tears and make the patient feel more comfortable.

Certain systemic infections are also associated with bloody tears. Hemorrhagic fevers like Ebola cause blood vessels to burst, leading to leaks throughout the body. Patients can develop heavy bruising, bleeding from mucus membranes, and haemolacria as their bodies slowly break down as a result of the infection. In these cases, the systemic symptoms, including high fever, disorientation, and bruising, are all clinical signs that may assist with diagnosis.

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Visually, haemolacria can be frightening for people around the patient if enough blood is present to discolor the tears. Dark, bloody tears can be particularly dramatic and people may fear the patient is seriously ill. People who are already in treatment for an issue known to cause bloody tears should report this symptom if it develops, as it may indicate that the treatment is not working or needs to be adjusted. If there is no known cause, a visit to a doctor for evaluation may be advisable.

Some cases of haemolacria have been reported in spontaneous circumstances. Researchers theorize it may be associated with extreme stress or psychological upset in these instances. The link with hormone cycles is another possible explanation; if the bloody tears only appear once or twice, it may be difficult to definitively determine if they're connected with the patient’s endocrine cycle. Studies to determine why some women experience this phenomenon in connection with menstrual cycles haven't been conclusive.

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indigomoth
Post 3

I wonder if this has ever been thought of as a religious thing. I know that there have been occasional statues that "bled" from the eyes and that was considered a miracle.

It kind of makes me sad that it seems to be associated with women, because I imagine if a woman did this back in the day, it would have been considered a sign of witchcraft. So, she might have been burned alive, or otherwise tortured, for no other reason than that her body decided to do something strange for five minutes.

It's funny that, when a statue does it, it's a miracle, but when a living person does it, it has to be the work of the devil. I'd like to think that wasn't the conclusion that people would jump to, but I'm sure it was.

Fa5t3r
Post 2

@Mor - Well, I've witnessed someone getting milk to run from their eyes, by snorting it up their nose (it must really hurt to do that, now that I think about it!) so they must be connected. That's probably why people get runny noses when they cry as well.

Considering how quickly blood can congeal, I have to say that I hope I never experience this. Aside from the scary factor, it must be very uncomfortable.

Mor
Post 1

I read an article recently about people who get nose bleeds and what the best way to treat them is, and one of the things they said was that it's a bad idea to lean back and hold the nose. In that case, they said, the blood just flows down the back of the throat and can be much more dangerous than if it flows down your shirt, even if it seems more distressing with the blood on the outside.

Someone in the comments agreed and added that, whenever a well meaning adult would insist on their putting their head back while their nose was bleeding as a child, they ended up bleeding from the eyes which, of course, freaked everyone out.

Kind of a neat trick in some ways, but I can definitely understand why you wouldn't want that to happen. I actually didn't know that the eyes were even connected to the nose like that.

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