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    Understanding vision problems in space

    Houston—Astronaut Scott Kelly’s recent return to Earth after a yearlong stay on the International Space Station provided an interesting opportunity to study the effects of microgravity on the body—including the eyes and vision.

    Kelly experienced vision problems on his previous, shorter missions. According to Air & Space, Kelly suffered “bad middle vision” for a while during his mission in 1999; he wore reading glasses during his mission in 2007; and during his 2010-2011 mission, his eyesight “generally changed in a negative way,” but corrected three months after his return to Earth.

    Kelly told Optometry Times (Editor’s note: Yes, we actually spoke to him. It was awesome.) that his vision problems this time around were similar to what he experienced on previous missions.

    “I would say it was very consistent with my last flight from a subjective point of view,” Kelly says. “We were collecting more data this time on board, so we’ll have a little better insight into when those changes occurred and how they were in flight vs. how they were on the ground. But I don’t think that—at least subjectively—it was very different from my last experience, which in the beginning you notice some changes and then it levels off. And in this case, stayed that same way the whole flight.”



    Optometry Times interviews Scott Kelly

    Today, we had the honor of participating in a press conference with astronaut Scott Kelly, who recently returned from a year-long mission aboard the International Space Station. Check out what he had to say about the vision changes he experienced during this mission (and stay tuned for our story—we also got to talk to the leading scientists for the ISS—it was AWESOME.)

    Posted by Optometry Times on Friday, March 4, 2016

    Scott Kelly and his identical twin brother, Mark, who is also an astronaut, participated in array of studies while Scott was in space and Mark was on Earth. This is the first study of its kind that will be able to compare the health effects of being in space for an extended period of time on two individuals who are nearly genetically identical. According to NASA, researchers will continue to track the health of the brothers over the next year before making those findings available to the public.

    Check out all of our coverage from SECO 2016

    Vision problems—commonly hyperopia—are one of many concerns for astronauts both while in space and after their return to Earth. According to NASA, about three quarters of International Space Station astronauts experience changes in the structure or function of their eyes during and/or after their mission. Some of these problems do not correct themselves upon return to Earth.

    Vision is so often impaired that the International Space Station reportedly stocks a supply of reading glasses with different prescriptions (sounds like they could use a good OD on board, right?). Air & Space recently reported one terrifying incident of an astronaut experiencing vision problems at the worst possible time:

    “The highest-priority problem, however, is impaired vision, a condition that returning crew members have reported with increasing frequency,” writes Guy Gugliotta in Air & Space. “One U.S. astronaut discovered during reentry that he couldn’t read the checklist for landing. (Fortunately, crew members know the procedures virtually by heart.)”

    Next: Shifting fluids within the body

    Colleen E. McCarthy
    Colleen McCarthy is a freelance writer based in the Cleveland area and a former editor of Optometry Times. She is a 2010 graduate of the ...


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