Lebron James is especially scary these days, and not only because of his palpable thirst for the Golden State Warriors’ blood. Thanks to a well-aimed poke by professional troll Draymond Green in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, James has a bright red spot on his left eye that’s led to apt comparisons to the Terminator. It was still very conspicuous in Game 2 on Sunday night, but eye experts, like the Warriors, aren’t the least bit worried about James.
The diagnosis from Traverse City optometrist Dr. William Potthoff Jr. will come as a relief for James’s daughter, who “was a little weirded out about it” after she FaceTimed with her bloody-eyed father. In a blog post following Game 1, Potthoff explained that the blood-red spot in James’s eye was indeed caused by blood resulting from an eye injury known as a subconjunctival hemorrhage. It is, essentially, a bruise on the eyeball.
“No treatment is needed for a subconjunctival hemorrhage as they are self-limited,” he writes. “Given the limited nature of Lebron’s eye bleed, I would expect it’ll look a bit better by Game 2 and may be completely resolved by Game 3.”
A subconjunctival hemorrhage is named for the part of the eye that gets injured. The conjunctiva is a thin, transparent layer of tissues that covers and protects the white part of the eyeball, known as the sclera; a subconjunctival injury, then, happens beneath this tissue. In Lebron’s case, the injury was a hemorrhage — the escape of blood out of any vessels injured by the feckless Green.
According to the American Academy of Opthalmology, the blood that escapes gets sandwiched between the clear conjunctiva and the opaque-white sclera, which is why it’s so visible. Fortunately, it’s “almost always harmless and often heals on its own.” The only conspicuous symptom is the red spot on the eye.
Subconjunctival hemorrhages aren’t always the result of a Golden State Warrior’s reckless poking. Sometimes, optometrist Dr. Cheryl G. Murphy tells Inverse, they can be caused by hard coughing, sneezing, heavy lifting, or even a strained bowel movement. “These events can cause a rapid, momentary spike in blood pressure which can pop tiny little capillaries in the body, some of the smallest networks of capillaries happen to be in the eye,” she says.
“It is important to note that patients should be checked for uncontrolled high blood pressure (uncontrolled long term not just momentary) or other blood disorders as it can sometimes be a sign of something more serious.”
Regardless of what causes the injury, its effects will usually resolve on their own. Just like a bruise elsewhere on the body, the blood cells will eventually be broken down into their individual elements — mostly red hemoglobin and proteins — and reabsorbed back into the body. Unlike a regular bruise that can appear black, green, and blue as it heals, however, a subconjunctival hemorrhage will appear to fade away, writes Dr. Andrew A. Dahl at MedicineNet. That’s because the conjunctiva is clear, unlike the skin, which can distort the color of the blood beneath it.
Fortunately for the James family, and perhaps unfortunately for the Cleveland Cavaliers — who desperately need their only competent player to be as terrifying a force as possible — Lebron’s eye will probably not maintain its bright red hue for much longer. But at the rate the Finals are going for the Cavs, there’s no doubt James will continue seeing red.