Weight lifting requires a tremendous effort on the part of an individual's muscles – so blood vessels may be ruptured by the strong exertion necessary to accomplish this task. While most weight lifting related ruptured blood vessels occur in the eye, some occasionally break in other parts of the body, specifically the legs. The majority of ruptured blood vessels look worse than they really are, with most self-repairing in a week. However, larger vessels that are ruptured may present a danger to the individual, especially when clots are formed that go on to cause embolisms.
When a Blood Vessel Ruptures
Most blood vessels that rupture during weight lifting sessions are tiny capillaries that are unable to withstand the tremendous force of blood pumping within their paper-thin walls. This is why someone with a ruptured vessel in the eye (called a "hemorrhage") appears to be "bleeding" in the eye. One side of the eye's white area (sclera) may be entirely red, or small red dots may cover the entire eye, depending on the amount of vessels ruptured. When a bodybuilder strains to lift a heavy dumbbell, this force forms a clot, causing the capillary to bulge, weaken, and eventually burst.
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Why Ruptures Occur
The eyeball requires many tiny capillaries to provide blood to the front and back of the eye. As one of the most complex structures constituting the human body, it is also one of the most delicate because of its non-skeletal structure. These tiny blood vessels are easily ruptured by such simple activities as sneezing, coughing, or laughing. It is understandable, then, why a vigorous activity such as weight lifting would readily cause ruptures vessels in the eye. Technically, a broken blood vessel in the eye is referred to as a subconjunctival hemorrhage.
What You Can Do
Ruptured vessels, or capillaries, are not painful and generally do not pose a medical problem necessitating a trip to the doctor. However, individuals experiencing subconjunctival hemorrhage who wear contact lenses should be careful when wearing lenses. People with allergies need to be careful as well, because rubbing the eye may break more compromised vessels or cause more bleeding. Treatment basically consists of avoiding the action that provoked the rupture until redness is gone and just being careful of bumping or irritating the eye.
Doctor's Visit Importance
If pain accompanies ruptured blood vessels, whether they occur in the eyes or legs (visible spidery veins) a doctor should be consulted, as a small blood vessel rupture should not cause any discomfort. Hemorrhages in the eye should not cause any vision problems. Someone experiencing blurry or darkened vision should also see an ophthalmologist or a physician, as this may indicate a more serious, underlying condition. Minor pain or irritation in an eye is usually alleviated by prescribed or over-the-counter eye drops.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.