Woman, 36, broke a BONE in her eye socket by blowing her nose too hard

Woman, 36, broke a BONE in her eye socket by blowing her nose too hard and her doctor compared the injury to a punch in the face

  • The unnamed woman went to A&E in a North London hospital last year
  • She had a cold and had blown her nose so hard it bled and she lost her vision
  • At hospital a CT scan revealed she had broken her eye socket with the force 

Most of us will have experienced the kind of cold which makes you forget what it was like to be able to breathe through both nostrils.

But one woman went a step too far to relieve her sniffle and blew her nose so hard she fractured her skull, according to a medical report.

The 36-year-old cleaner put so much effort into blowing her nose she broke her eye socket, ending up with an injury a medic compared to being punched in the face.

The woman, who went to A&E in London last year, temporarily lost her vision after the powerful blow and her eye started to swell up and became painful.

Her nose bled and she had a stabbing pain in the side of her head and left arm.

At North Middlesex University Hospital, medics discovered in a scan that she had broken her eye socket and called the injury ‘very rare’.

The woman’s CT scan showed a fracture in her eye socket had caused fat to leak into her airway (nostril on the left is filled with air, which appears black, while on the right fat, which appears grey, is obstructing a large part of the nasal cavity)

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Doctors said, although the woman was otherwise fit and healthy, there was ‘gross swelling’ around her left eye when she arrived at hospital.

Despite this her vision, eye movement and pupils were all normal.

Pressure in her nose fractured the eye socket 

A CT scan revealed the woman had broken a bone in her eye socket – the lamina papyracea – because the pressure in her sinuses was so high when she blew her nose. 


A senior lecturer from The University of Queensland, David King, said last year that people could be causing damage by blowing their nose. 

‘On balance it seems repeated and vigorous blowing of the nose may carry more risk than benefit, even though it seems to be a natural response to nasal congestion,’ he wrote for The Conversation.

‘So looking to remove the need to blow so forcefully is probably a better option’.

Dr King says that, although injuries are rare, people have fractured the base of their eye sockets, had severe headaches and have forced air into the tissue between the two lobes of the lung.  

He thinks people who are repeatedly blowing their nose may have another condition like sinusitis or hay fever, which should be treated.    

For those still bunged up, Dr King recommends decongestant sprays, saline nose sprays and performing a technique called nasal aspiration, which is when you squirt liquid saline up your nose to flush out mucus and debris.

Source: The Conversation 

The break allowed fat to leak into her airway and air was trapped in tissue around her eye, according to a case report in the British Medical Journal.

Her symptoms included briefly losing her vision; pain in her head, neck and arm; bleeding from the nose; and swelling around the eye. 

She was given antibiotics for sinusitis, Co-amoxiclav, and discharged with instructions to not blow her nose, smoke or play contact sports. 

Broken eye sockets are normally caused by blows to the face

The doctor who wrote the case report said breaking an eye socket by blowing the nose is rare, and the injury is usually associated with trauma – being hit in the face by something.

Dr Sam Myers, a surgeon at the North Middlesex University Hospital in North London, said the woman had a cold and blew her nose one nostril at a time, which increased the pressure in her eye socket, according to Live Science. 

He added that smoking – the woman smoked 20 cigarettes a day, but reportedly quit after her ordeal – changes the pressure in the sinuses so may have contributed. 

Dr Myers said he had never seen someone with this injury from blowing their nose and the bone-breaking force could have been equal to that of a punch to the face.

‘My vision went completely in both eyes’ 

The unnamed woman said in the case report: ‘About a year ago, I was working as a domestic cleaner when I blew my nose. 

‘For a few seconds after, my vision went completely in both eyes. Then my left eye started to swell and my nose started to bleed. 

Scan of the woman’s skull from below shows the nostril on the left is filled with air (which appears black) while the nostril on the right contains solid grey matter (fat) because of the fracture

‘I thought nothing of it until a few hours later I could not see at all and I had pain on the left side of my head. I then went straight to A&E. 

‘They kept me in overnight and said I had a socket fracture in my left eye. I went to the Royal Free a few weeks after and they confirmed I had a fracture but only gave me painkillers. 

‘I still get pain on the left side of my head everyday that can last from 30 minutes to a few hours. This can really affect my concentration throughout the day.’      

Despite occasional pain the woman has healed well and the woman did not need surgery and her vision was not permanently affected, Myers said.

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