A 36-year-old woman walked into a hospital with a broken eye socket and blurred vision. No, this isn’t the start of some horrible joke. It’s a true story, yet the woman hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary that might have left her with a fractured face.
Oh wait, she blew her nose.
According to a report published in the journal BMJ Case Reports, the simple force of blowing her nose fractured the bones surrounding her left eye, resulting in an “orbital blowout fracture.” The woman suffered from swelling and “orbital emphysema” – a condition where air gets trapped in the soft tissues – in this “very rare” case.
The woman was reportedly at work when she blew her nose and temporarily lost vision in both eyes. Two hours later she noticed swelling around her left eye and started bleeding from her left nostril. She went to the emergency room after another few hours of vision issues and pain on the left side of her head and neck. A CT scan showed a fracture in her left eye socket and a break in the bone surrounding the eye called the lamina papyracea.
Lead author Dr Sam Myers, who treated the woman, told Live Science this bone is thin and can fracture with blunt-force injuries like a fist or baseball to the face, typically resulting in bruising, tenderness, swelling around the eye, redness, and double vision. He told the publication he’d never heard of a person breaking an eye socket from blowing their nose.
Meyers also told Time the woman “must have had a predisposition or a weakening in the skeletal area around the eye” – and she smoked about a pack of cigarettes a day. The accident happened about a year ago and, according to her physicians, the fracture was relatively easy to treat. It was a clean break and her vision was not permanently altered, nor did she need surgery. Doctors sent her home with painkillers and a year later she has reportedly recovered well, with the exception of pain on the left side of her face that lasts for 30 minutes to a few hours each day.