This Woman Broke A Bone In Her Eye Socket By Blowing Her Nose Too Hard

According to a recent case report, a British woman blew her nose with so much force that she ended up with not only snot-filled tissue – she also fractured the bone in her left eye socket.

That’s right – the tremendous force with which she blew her nose caused an “orbital burst,” or a fracture of the thin bone that makes up the bottom of the eye socket.

The 36-year-old woman was at work when the incident occurred, according to a case report published online June 28 in the journal BMJ Case Reports. Shortly after forcibly blowing her nose, the woman was temporarily blinded in both eyes. Then, two hours later, her left nostril suddenly began bleeding and she developed swelling around her left eye. After a few more hours, she had problems with her vision and tingling on the left side of her head and neck, so she went to the emergency room.

A CT scan of her facial bones showed a fracture in her left eye socket, the report said.

Breaking the eye socket
While eye socket fractures are not uncommon, they are more commonly caused by blunt force trauma, such as when someone is hit in the eye or struck by a ball, said Dr. Sam Myers, the lead author of the case report and a surgeon at North Middlesex University Hospital in London, who treated the woman.

In fact, one of the bones at the base of the eye is so thin that it would fracture with such blunt force injuries, Myers told Live Science. but what made the nose-blowing case even stranger was that the woman actually fractured an adjacent bone, which is much thicker and harder to break, he said.

Miles said people can generate considerable force in their nostrils when they blow their noses, but it’s very rare for such a force to be generated enough to fracture an orbital bone.

Myers said he has never heard of anyone suffering an orbital fracture from blowing their nose. Everyone blows their nose, he said, but they don’t think they can blow their eyes out in the process.

What’s different this time?
But there could be a number of reasons why this bizarre incident happened. First, Myers said, the woman was suffering from the flu during the week of the incident and was blowing her nose more frequently. And the way she was blowing her nose may have played a role as well. The woman tended to close one nostril and then blow her nose hard, which almost doubled the pressure in her sinuses because it forced all the pressure out through the remaining open nostril instead of both nostrils, he said.

In addition, the woman was a pack-a-day smoker, according to the report.

Smoking may have played a role in the injury, Myers said. Smoking alters the pressure in a person’s sinuses, which are located next to the eye sockets, which could have made her more susceptible to fractures, he said.

Another possible explanation is that the woman may have had a tendency to weaken the bones around her eyes and nasal cavity, making her more susceptible to changes in pressure, Myers said.

As a result, the force generated by the woman blowing her nose could have been equivalent to the force of a punch, resulting in an orbital fracture, Myers said. What’s more, the fracture traps air where it doesn’t belong, such as under the skin and in the tissues. This is known as “orbital emphysema,” and it usually goes away on its own, he said.

Because of the fracture, the woman ended up spending the night in the hospital. She was given painkillers and prescribed antibiotics to prevent infection.

When Myers last saw the woman, she was in very good condition. He said her vision was not permanently affected by the fracture and she did not need surgery to repair it.

Miles said the woman still experiences pain on the left side of her head from time to time, and that it should eventually go away as she continues to heal. But he’s happy to report that the woman has quit smoking – and will likely blow her nose more gently in the future.