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Space Travel Can Be Bad for Your Eyes

Astronauts who flew in space are reportedly having vision problems. Nearly 50 percent of the space travelers who served long missions (six months or more) are experiencing difficulty seeing objects near them. About 23 percent of astronauts who flew shorter missions also complained of the same condition.

Led by Dr. Tom Mader of Alaska Native Medical Center, the NASA-funded researchers discovered several symptoms of eye stress, which included fluid buildup around the optic nerves, flattening of the eyeballs and folding of the blood vessels in the retina, among others.

“People have been flying in space for 50 years and nobody has gone blind yet,” Dr. Mader said. “But it’s still something to be concerned about.”

Dr. Mader hypothesized that it was the loss of gravity that caused these vision problems. He added that microgravity environments also were a factor for the astronauts’ damaged vision.

“It’s very hard for us at this point to define exactly what is causing all of this,” Dr. Mader stated.

The researchers also announced that at least one in seven astronauts still exhibited symptoms of vision problems even if more than five years has already elapsed since their space mission. They also added that about 12 percent of the space travelers who had missions lasting over six months suffered long-distance eyesight trouble. On the other hand, around 6.6 percent of all short-mission astronauts also experienced the same vision defect.

In addition, it was reported that around 34 percent of long-mission astronauts also experienced refraction changes in their corrective lenses.

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Dr. Feiten was born and raised in Wisconsin, attending the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh for her undergraduate studies. She graduated from Pacific University with her Doctor of Optometry degree in 1987. She practiced in Kentucky for seven years, receiving the Young OD of the Year Award in 1994.

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