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How space travel affects human eyesight

70% of astronauts traveling to the International Space Station (ISS) experience puffiness at the back of their eyes. This triggers symptoms such as visual blurring and a general deterioration in sight, both in space and when they return to Earth. Sometimes this damage is generated permanently.

Using MRIs from twelve ISS astronauts, a research team sought the answer to how the microgravity of space missions affects the eyes and the human body, as part of the preparations for the new wave of space flights to the Moon. and Mars predicted.

The causes behind the eye damage suffered by astronauts

The work of research on which these observations are based was developed by professionals from the Medical University of South Carolina, who analyzed the magnetic resonance imaging of twelve ISS astronauts (ten men and two women) to measure the system of veins that circulate the blood to the brain before and after the flight, establishing a correlation between the aforementioned symptoms and the appearance of eye problems.

Human muscles weaken when the force of Earth’s gravity is applied to them. The ISS is designed largely as a laboratory, where many of the experiments carried out there are medical in nature, with the astronauts themselves as willing test subjects, providing a wealth of medical data that will reduce risk for future space missions. .

The aforementioned visual impairment is known as spaceflight neuroocular syndrome (SANS). Dr. Mark Rosenberg, one of the study authors, commented that this condition is so common that ‘It’s gotten to the point where astronauts actually wear extra pairs of glasses when they go into space. They know their vision is going to deteriorate up there, and they have even started calling them spatial anticipation glasses. “.

A person affected by a SANS picture may experience physical changes such as flattening of their eyeballs, swelling of their nerves, and damage to the retinas. The recovery time for these symptoms is relative, varying from a few weeks after returning to Earth, to longer periods that could even leave permanent sequelae.

The lack of gravity causes the distribution of blood in the body to work differently, with the fluid moving towards the head and eyes at a faster rate than on Earth, where gravity reduces the flow to these areas. According to Rosenberg’s article, this could be the root cause of SANS.

These conditions determine that “People with higher venous sinus compliance may be at higher risk of developing SANS.” For this reason, early detection of these conditions can help astronauts understand the risks to their eyes before leaving our planet.

This research breakthrough will lay the foundations for a long roadmap. With a larger sample of astronauts, it is still necessary to identify what differences can be identified between the SANS pictures in men and women and additionally, to carry out a more exhaustive follow-up of these conditions, the researchers also raised the need for an MRI machine mobile on the International Space Station.

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Lenny Li

I started to play with tech since middle school. Smart phones, laptops and gadgets are all about my life. Besides, I am also a big fan of Star War. May the force be with you!

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