Astronauts might need to wear swimming goggles to avoid vision issues in spaceflight, study says

Astronauts might need to wear swimming goggles in the future to protect their vision in space, a study has suggested.

Reduced pressure during space missions to the International Space Station leads to negative changes in the eye, which can last for years even after astronauts return to Earth.

Around 75 per cent of astronauts experience changes to their eyes and vision, including “cotton wool spots” and a thickening of the optic nerve.

But research suggests wearing swimming goggles could help regulate pressure around the eye and protect the eye from the effects of long space flights.

In order to study how to prevent the decay of vision in space, scientists from the Universities Space Research Association in Houston put 20 men through various exercises while tilted on their back head first to simulate the effect of exercise in space.

Of the 20 participants tested over three days at Nasa‘s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, 10 wore swimming goggles.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Opthalmology, found exercise was associated with decreased pressure in the eye.

But “the addition of swimming goggles was associated with modestly increased pressure, which could reduce some of the adverse effects on the eye of long-duration spaceflights”, Dr Jessica Scott, the study’s lead author, said.

“These findings need to be replicated in spaceflight to determine whether increasing eye pressure with swim googles is safe and effective,” she added.

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Commenting on the study, Dr Andrew Lee from the Blanton Eye Institute in Houstin Houston said it could have “important potential implications for future manned missions to the Moon, near-Earth asteroids, or Mars”.


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