Too Much Space Travel Is Hazardous for Your Eyeballs
Something strange has been happening to people who stay too long in space: The backs of their eyeballs start to flatten. Spider-web-like marks called choroidal folds crisscross the thin layer of blood vessels and connective tissue that surround their retinas. Their vision goes blurry, their optic nerves become inflamed. The damage can last long after the astronauts return to Earth. And scientists haven’t been able to explain why.
“People initially didn’t know what to make of it, and by 2010 there was growing concern as it became apparent that some of the astronauts had severe structural changes that were not fully reversible upon return to earth,” notes Noam Alperin, a professor of radiology and biomedical engineering at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
According to Florida Eye Microsurgical Institute’s Joseph Nezgoda, M.D., “The human eye was not built to work in the low gravity environment of space. No astronaut has ever been off of the planet for more than a year at a time and much longer journeys are needed for plans to explore space further.” The Macular Degeneration, Diabetic Retinopathy & Medical/Surgical Retina Specialist adds, “The delicate pressure balance of the central nervous system and how it relates to the eye, and in particular the choroidal layer under the retina, must be worked to keep our astronauts seeing into their journeys.”