pressure in eyeballs - eyeballs in planes
April 8, 2009 9:14 AM   Subscribe

Some people's ears pop in an airplane. My coworker bursts blood vessels. Why?

My coworker Andrew came into work this morning with a gross bloody eye. He'd been on a flight and the pressure change was so intense that he burst a blood vessel in his eye. He says that this always happens to him - he avoids flying for this reason - and claims that it has something to do with his ears not popping. The burst blood vessels also come with intense head pain.

Andrew is a healthy dude, mid-twenties, with no afflictions that I know of. What could be causing him this problem? Is there anything he can do to prevent it happening in future?

Thanks, hive mind!
posted by harperpitt to Health & Fitness (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
He sounds like he's prone to "reverse squeeze," which affects scuba divers and pilots. In simple terms, the pressure on the inside is more than the pressure on the outside. Some people are more prone to this than others.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:22 AM on April 8, 2009

His Eustachian tubes are probably clogged.
posted by gjc at 4:20 PM on April 8, 2009

IANAD, but from a Google search, bleeding inside the eye is common in impact injuries, but due to an airplane flight seems to be fairly rare. Here is one other case.

This seems to be completely different from Eustachian tubes, ear plugs, and the reverse squeeze (which affects the sinuses). If I were him, I'd see a good ophthalmologist for a complete eye exam.
posted by exphysicist345 at 5:09 PM on April 8, 2009

FWIW, massive doses of steroids can (usually) open wide the eustachian tubes, improving the equalization process.

Usually, but not always. I spent MONTHS with my left eustachian blocked, until a momentous plate of hot food did what expensive modern drugs could not. Yay peppers!
posted by IAmBroom at 9:56 AM on June 25, 2009

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