Posted November 14, 2013
Many Americans are thrilled with the idea of space travel, but they may not be aware of the impact of aeronautical missions on the eyes and vision.
Scientists discovered that astronauts spending extensive time in space may experience vision problems after returning to Earth. Through a research project sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a research team of ophthalmologists studied the impact of space travel on the eyes and vision of more than 300 astronauts.
Most astronauts surveyed reported experiencing blurry vision while in space. Seven of the astronauts, all of whom were age 50 or older, had several abnormal changes in their eyes, which medical professionals believe involved changes to the tissues, fluids, nerves and other structures in the back of their eyes.
During extended space travel, astronauts live in microgravity, which scientists believe creates excessive pressure inside the head and impacts an astronaut’s fluid level in the eyes. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, these specific changes to the eyes were noticed:
- Flattening in the back of the eyeball
- Swelling of the optic nerve
- Creases in the tissue behind the retina
Through the study, medical professionals learned that many astronauts experience correctable near and distance vision problems following space travel. This included about 23 percent of those participating in brief missions and 48 percent of those in an extended space program of at least six months. Although most reported that these were short-term issues, some continued to experience problems for several months or years following space travel. Decades ago, after documenting incidences of near-vision problems, NASA started equipping astronauts with space anticipation glasses to improve vision sharpness during aeronautical missions.
NASA scientists continue to research the impact of microgravity on the human body, including the eyes and vision.
To learn more, review this article provided by Space Safety Magazine.