Could That Cough be Hazardous to Your Eyes?

In the past year, we’ve come to observe any cough as suspicious. Could it mean we’ve been unwittingly exposed to the novel coronavirus? What should we do about the cough if it persists? How can we soothe it quickly and what happens if we can’t? The vast majority of coughing that has taken place in recent months has not been indicative of a viral infection. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn more about the potential hazards of a severe or unrelenting cough, regardless of its cause. We’ll discuss this topic here.

Essentially, there are three parts to the average cough. These include:

  • Stimulation in the respiratory tract causes a sudden intake of breath.
  • The abdominal and chest muscles contract. At the same time, the vocal cords in the larynx close. This combination causes pressure to build in the chest.
  • The vocal cords open suddenly, letting a rush of air out, forming the cough.

The cough happens for a clear reason: the body needs to expel something. It may be bacteria, mucus, microbes, irritants, or foreign particles. Whatever it is, the cough can feel rather unpleasant. Fortunately, according to primary healthcare providers, most coughs are short-lived. Although coughing is a common reason for doctor visits, most last 3 weeks or less. For some, though, a cough may become severe or may persist. Certain conditions and habits can increase this risk. Examples include GERD stomach reflux, bronchitis, asthma, and smoking.

Why are We Discussing Coughing When We Are an Ophthalmology Office?

Fortunately, coughing is usually a minor nuisance that goes away relatively quickly. It is important to know when to see a doctor for a cough, though, because the act of coughing itself presents a risk of an unexpected complication. According to a review in The American Journal of Medicine, coughing can induce complications such as hernia, chest pain, rib fracture, fainting, rupture of the spleen, pneumothorax, sleep deprivation, headache, and stress urinary incontinence. Coughing can also affect the eyes.

The most common eye-related complication of coughing includes subconjunctival hemorrhage. This condition looks worse than it is because it involves bleeding on the surface of the eye. Because coughing “shakes things up” inside the head and face, this action can cause temporary visual disturbances, such as bright spots. In severe cases, this type of bleeding can result in bruising around the eyes that lasts for several weeks. Violent coughing has been known to trigger hemorrhage inside the eye, around the retina, and resulting in retinal detachment, a problem that requires immediate medical attention.

Coughing is something you’ve done before and something you’ll do again. At this time when the action is somewhat questionable, it is important to know the potential complications of a bad cough and how to soothe it.

For personal attention in eye health matters, call our Ocala ophthalmology office at (352) 237-8400.

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