Space Travel Might Lead to Eye Trouble

November 12, 2012

Space Travel Might Lead to Eye Trouble

A study from NASA has identified a potential problem for any future manned space missions to Mars and further. It seems that being in space for an extended period of time can affect the astronauts’ eyes. If the astronauts remain in space for six months or more their vision becomes blurred according to the study.

The study which was published in the journal Ophthalmology, details the examination carried out on seven astronauts who had all spent more than six months in space at any one time. The study found that all of the astronauts, who worked on the space station, experienced blurred vision. It was also noted that the problems began after about six weeks and remained for a long time after the astronauts returned to Earth.

The researchers think that being exposed to microgravity for such a long time may be the cause of the blurry vision which they believe results from changes to the structures at the rear of the eyes. During the eye examinations the researchers found that the tissues, fluids, nerves and other structures in the rear of the eye had at least one change.

The study co-author Dr. Thomas Mader, an ophthalmologist with Alaska Native Medical Center, said, “In astronauts over age 40, like non-astronauts of the same age, the eye’s lens may have lost some of its ability to change focus. In the space program’s early days, most astronauts were younger, military test pilots who had excellent vision. Today’s astronauts tend to be in their 40s or older. This may be one reason we’ve seen an uptick in vision problems. Also, we suspect many of the younger astronauts were more likely to ‘tough out’ any problems they experienced, rather than reporting them”.

The researcher concluded that microgravity was the cause of the visual problems because none of the astronauts showed any symptoms related to intracranial pressure. Normal symptoms for this condition include double vision, headache or ringing in the ears. Additionally all of the astronauts had spent many months in space.

The researcher advocate more research to identify who is better suited to extended space travel. They know what the problem is but have not done enough research to comment further.

NASA is aware of the problem and is pro active in its response. It has given astronauts scheduled for extended space missions special ‘space anticipation glasses’ which helps to improve their vision whilst in space. On return from the mission the astronauts also undergo extensive eye examinations and tests on their vision.

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