Space Travel is Risky—Just Ask Your Eyeballs

By Sarah Zhang | March 22, 2012 8:43 am

spacing is important
Flattened eye of the astronaut.

Without gravity pulling down on fluids in their bodies, astronauts’ faces get puffy and congested. This Charlie Brown effect—so named for the cartoonishly round faces—may be responsible for amusing anecdotes like hot sauce cravings among astronauts, but it could also pose a permanent problem for their eyes. In a new study, MRIs revealed swelling or flattening of eyeballs in an unusually high proportion—11 out of 27—of astronauts examined.

The abnormalities matched what doctors see in Earth-bound patients with idiopathic intracranial hypertension, or high pressure of fluids in the brain, which could be similar to what’s happening in zero gravity. The study’s authors are careful to note that they can’t rule out other causes, such as exposure to radiation, and that they did not look at astronauts who had never been in space for comparison. Nevertheless vision problems are a known hazard of space travel, and NASA is now scanning all eyeballs before astronauts leave for space.

[via NYT]

Image courtesy of Kramer et al / Radiology 

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Space
  • Electro

    I would think that high proportions of Astronauts with military flight backgrounds and the high-G training that all mission crew members undergo, might be a factor here. I agree with the authors that comparison testing against program members who have never been to orbit, and military pilots in general, is necessary before drawing any conclusions at all.
    They also might want to see where frequent Bungee jumpers fit into the pattern.

  • Ratava99

    Fighter pilots and bungee jumpers are only subject to gees for short periods. Their body parts aren’t stressed long enough nor often enoughto have any significant effect on growth.

  • TheGhostOfSabotage

    I’m calling bullshit on this one, cause radiation does not have an effect on the eyes unless exposed for more than 30 minutes or so, and most of radiation does not get though the Van Allen Belt and at the time being the ISS (where the astronauts go to for the missions) is under the Van Allen Belt and most of the time the people are not looking out the windows and are instead they are working on the missions/experiments that involve being away from the windows and when they have to go outside their space suits protects them from what little radiation that gets though and their helmets have two visors, and the outer visor stops damage to their face as well as their eyeballs. The gravity that they experience does not effect much and when they get out of Earth’s gravity and the rockets come of the G-force stops and their eyeballs and their faces go back to their original shape cause of the blood flow and the fluid that’s inside humans, so before you post anything else I suggest you look up human biology first and study it through and through! :)


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