Haemolacria

Cases of people crying blood have been reported since the 1500s, a rare disorder which we now call haemolacria- quite literally, “bloody tears”. As suspected, the condition results in tears that are partially or entirely composed of blood. Although this affliction has yet to be fully understood, there are some things that we do know.

First of all, hormonal changes can contribute. In the 16th century, some of the oldest recorded cases are Italian doctor Antonio Brassavola’s statements speaking of a menstruating nun who suffered, as well as a Flemish physician who wrote on a 16-year old girl “who discharged her flow throughout the eyes, as drops of bloody tears, instead of through the uterus.”

Interestingly enough, this is substantiated by modern science. A 1991 study of 125 healthy subjects found that menstruation contributed to traces of blood in tears, a phenomenon called “occult haemolacria”. According to the resulting paper, 18 percent of fertile women’s tears contain blood, whearas only 7 percent of pregnant women, 8 percent of men and no women who were post-menopause displayed signs of bloody tears. The conclusion reached by the scientists was that “Occult haemolacria in fertile women thus seems to be induced by hormones, whereas haemolacria most often is provoked by local factors (bacterial conjunctivitis, environmental damage, injuries).”

Injuries can also cause haemolacria. In March of 2013, a man of Canadian origin was walking along a beach when a poisonous snake bit him, resulting in agonizing swelling and kidney failure…in addition to the man weeping tears of blood. Doctors accredited the bloody tears to the prodigious amounts of internal bleeding brought about by the snake’s venom. In many cases of haemolacria, the blood can be attributed to various illnesses and ailments, including:

  • Severe anemia
  • Head injury
  • A tear in the tear duct
  • Tumors or vascular malformations
  • Various coagulopathies, including haemophila
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Nosebleeds in someone who has “reversed” flow in the nasolacrimal ducts

 

Works Cited
Holohan, Meghan. “Haemolacria: A Rare Condition That Makes People Cry Blood.” Mental Floss. Mental Floss, 31 Oct. 2013. Web. 08 Oct. 2015.
“Is It Possible to Cry Tears of Blood, or Have…” Dr. Cranquis’ Mumbled Gripes. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2015.

 

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