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When you were a kid, one of your friends probably told you that if you sneezed with your eyes open, your eyeballs would pop out of your head. But that can't really happen... right?

We don't show any images of actual eyes popped out of sockets in this episode. But the sources contain many if you really want to see.

Hosted by: Hank Green

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[ ♪ Intro ].

When you were a kid, one of your friends probably told you that if you sneezed with your eyes open, your eyeballs would pop out of your head. And on my playground, that always seemed to be followed by another kid chiming in, “Well, yes, that's technically true, but you can't actually sneeze with your eyes open.

So it never happens because why would we evolve that way?” Well, that second kid was definitely wrong, because while most people have a reflex that makes them close their eyes when they sneeze, people sneeze with their eyes open all the time, without popping their eyes out. Just look at a bunch of YouTube videos of people doing that. And that's because your eyelids aren't the only thing keeping your eyeballs in place.

They're also held in by, like, muscles and connective tissue. But that first kid? They weren't completely wrong.

In the medical world, popping an eyeball out is called globe luxation. And, while unlikely, I don't want to stress you out too much, it has happened after sneezing. Now let's start by pointing out that having an eyeball spontaneously pop out for any reason is very rare.

A 2012 article found just thirty cases in the medical literature. And the fact that it doesn't happen more often is a testament to human anatomy. An impressive amount of pressure can build up before a sneeze, enough to spray aerosolized snot and spit droplets up to 8 meters from your face.

That's a long way. But bone protects the rest of your head from this pressure. Your eyes, for example, are backed by a bony socket, called an orbit.

Pressure that builds up behind this orbit, like in your sinuses, comes out through the mouth and nose, not through the eyes. Still, eyeballs can pop out spontaneously. Sometimes, there's an underlying medical cause.

For example, having an overactive thyroid can make eye tissue swell, which pushes the eyeball forward. The same can happen with a tumor behind the eye. There are also variations in eye anatomy that can make a person more prone to it: shallow eye sockets or stretchy eye muscles, for instance.

More often, though, it takes trauma. If you suddenly and violently stop moving, like if you smash your car into something, your eyeball might experience enough force to pop out. Or, if something gets jammed into your eye socket, that can displace your eyeball.

And that's not all. Damage to the soft tissue around the eye can cause swelling or bleeding that can push the eye out. Or, smashing the bony orbit can open a connection to the sinuses, letting any pressure there affect your eyeball.

And unfortunately, if an eye comes out once, it's easier for it to come out again later on, including when you cough or sneeze, because stretched muscles and connective tissues tend to stay a little looser, and damaged bone may not grow back completely. This seems to be what happened with the person who currently holds the Guinness World Record for the farthest eyeball pop. And yeah, there are people who can pop their eyes out on cue.

Experts aren't really sure exactly how they do it, and it may be different for each person who can do it. But they suspect it comes down to anatomy. Some eye poppers may have gaps in their bony orbits, allowing them to direct sinus pressure out their eyes.

Then, they add pressure by contracting certain face muscles. Some may even have an extra eye muscle that most people don't have. But even in people who are prone to popping an eye out, it usually doesn't happen unless they're poking around at it.

If you're worried about sneezing your eye out, perhaps you can take some comfort in knowing that even if this were to happen, the eyeball won't, like, dangle down on your cheek or detach completely. I'm sorry for these visuals. Usually, popped-out eyes can be popped right back in without causing any long-term damage.

In fact, it's usually so easy to fix that some experts think spontaneous globe luxation is underreported. Like, it happens, and you don't even tell your doctor! Still, if you haven't had any serious eye injuries, you almost definitely do not have to worry about this happening.

And I'm really sorry that it's not 100%, but it's really close. Thanks for asking, Emilio! Man..

I'm not, I'm not sorry. This was fun. I liked it.

We love answering questions like this from our fans. In fact, we love it so much that we do it every week on our podcast SciShow Tangents. In every episode of Tangents, I get together with some of the other brains behind SciShow to nerd out about science related to a central theme.

And as a part of that, we respond to listener questions, so if you ask the Tangents team a good question, with our twitter @SciShowTangents, you might just hear us answer it! There's also deception, Hank bucks, poetry, and it ends with facts about butts. Look, it's a good podcast and all you have to do is get your podcast app out.

Search for SciShow Tangents. Click on subscribe. Listen to an episode.

It's like a half hour long. You will…. You'll thank me.

I'll also thank you. [ ♪ Outro ].