Astronauts may have to wear swimming goggles in future space mission to protect their eyes and vision, findings of a new research suggest.

Reduced Pressure In Space Threatens Astronauts' Eye Health

Astronauts in long spaceflight may experience changes in their eyes and vision as a result of reduced pressure. Astronauts on long-duration mission aboard the International Space Station, for instance, have exhibited adverse eyes changes.

In a new study published in JAMA Ophthalmology on April 18, Jessica Scott, of the Universities Space Research Association in Houston, Texas, and colleagues said that up to 75 percent of astronauts develop neuro-ocular changes during or after ISS missions lasting more than three months.

The researchers said these adverse changes can last for years even after the astronauts have returned to Earth.

Scott and colleagues wanted to find out if exercise and use of swimming goggles can help address this problem, so they asked 20 men to simulate the effects of exercise in space.

The men spent three separate days at NASA's Space Center in Houston, where they completed exercises while on their back and tilted back head-first. Ten of the participants wore swimming goggles in these activities.

Wearing Swimming Goggles May Help Reduce Pressure In The Eye

Scott and colleagues found that exercise was associated with reduced pressure in the eye. The use of swimming goggles, however, was associated with modestly increased pressure that may help reduce some of the unwanted eye effects of long-duration spaceflights.

The researchers said the study needs to be replicated in spaceflight to find out if increasing eye pressure with swimming goggles is safe and effective. The findings may be crucial for astronauts who need to stay in space for long, especially those who will be involved in the planned Mars mission.

"Head-down tilt (HDT) and HDT plus exercise are associated with altered cerebro-ocular hemodynamics and pressures in healthy men but changes can be partially mitigated by wearing swimming goggles," the researchers wrote in their study.

"Further evaluation in spaceflight may be warranted to determine whether modestly increasing the IOP is a safe and effective SANS countermeasure during long-duration missions and future exploration missions."

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