The first time Michael Spann cried blood, it "felt like I got hit in the head with a sledgehammer." It wouldn't be the last time. Blood began pouring out of Spann's eyes, nose, and mouth on a daily basis when he was 22, he tells the Tennessean. And though now, seven years later, it's slowed to a few times a week, the condition remains painful and debilitating. "Any job I get I lose because my eyes start bleeding," Spann says. Worst of all, it's totally unexplained.
Spann has no health insurance, but his family scrounged up $4,300 for lab work that revealed exactly nothing. Doctors have written the condition off as idiopathic, or not having a cause. But Spann isn't alone. Tennessee ophthalmologist James Fleming wrote a 2004 paper documenting four cases over an 11-year period. "Most of these were relatively young patients," he says. "As they matured, the bleeding decreased, subsided, and then stopped." But delving deeper would involve dangerous exploratory surgery. "There probably is a cause," Fleming says, "but it is a small tear duct."