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What Strenuous Exercises Cause Broken Blood Vessels on the Face?

by
author image Erin Paige
Erin Paige is a medical professional living in the heart of Austin, Texas. She has a bachelor's degree from Portland Sate University centered in exercise physiology and health promotion, and has had significant exposure to the fields of orthopedics, sports medicine and physical therapy.
What Strenuous Exercises Cause Broken Blood Vessels on the Face?
Strenuous exercise can sometimes lead to broken blood vessels, causing unsightly blemishes. Photo Credit funduck/iStock/Getty Images

Engaging in exercise is one of the most important things you can do to care for your health and well-being. It's one of the few methods humans have for controlling their physical appearance, as well. Sometimes, however, exercising too intensely can lead to broken blood vessels on the face. While most often this is a harmless byproduct of exercise, it can sometimes be unsightly and embarrassing. Rarely, broken blood vessels on the face can also be attributed to an underlying medical condition. In such instances, medical attention is recommended.

What Happens

Broken blood vessels can occur during high-stress or high-strain events that lead to elevated blood pressure. When your blood pressure rises -- a fundamental, physiological response to exercise -- the increased strain and pressure can cause the walls of your capillaries to thin. Sometimes, this will actually cause a rupture in the capillary wall, leading to a pooling of blood underneath the skin. When this happens, a red blemish can be visible on the surface of the skin.

What Causes It

High-impact, strenuous athletic events are more likely to lead to broken blood vessels on the face due to the substantial increase in blood pressure that accompanies it. This includes repetitive, endurance-based exercises such as long-distance running, swimming or rowing; contact sports such as football or lacrosse; and sports such as weightlifting due to the great amount of strain incurred. Direct contact to the face can also lead to broken blood vessels. This is common in sports such as boxing or wrestling, but could also occur in any sport involving a ball or piece of hard equipment, such as baseball, basketball or soccer.

The Main Culprit: Weightlifting

Weightlifters are a very high risk group for developing broken blood vessels as a byproduct of exercising. This is because a great deal of strain is incurred as effort is exerted to lift a large weight. This strain can cause the very thin walls of capillaries to burst in the face as a result of the increased blood pressure. Weightlifters are more likely to develop ruptured capillaries in the eye than in most other parts of the face. If this happens, immediate medical attention is recommended.

Very Honorable Mention: Boxing

Boxing and other high-contact sports in which participants incur heavy blows to the face are notorious for resulting in ruptured capillaries. Instead of strain and increased pressure -- an internal force -- being the primary drive for breaking the walls of the capillaries, the forceful impact made on contact -- an external force -- is typically the mechanism responsible. This is because the walls of capillaries on the face are very thin, and the abrasive nature of these types of sports causes the thin walls to tear.

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