Eye Color and Pain: Could There Be a Link?

by Chris Centeno, MD /

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eye color and pain

A recent pilot study out of the University of Pittsburgh caught my “eye” this morning.  In this preliminary study, researchers noted a link between eye color and pain tolerance.

Now this might seem ridiculously far fetched, but it does make some degree of sense from an epigenetic standpoint in that things like eye color and how we metabolize food, etc. are genetic mutations that were created eons ago to deal with the environment our ancestors lived in.  I’ve written about these things before in relation to metabolism of carbohydrates.  My blue eyed wife of Scandinavian ancestry has no difficulty using simple carbohydrates as fuel, where as my Venezuelan genes are programmed to store those simple carbohydrates for future use…as fat.

In this study, which followed a group of 58 pregnant Caucasian women, 24 with dark eyes and 34 with light eyes through the labor, delivery and postpartum period, researchers found that the women with darker eyes experienced more pain than the women with light eyes.  They concluded this based on the amount of relief experienced from the epidural given: the light eyed women experienced a 45% reduction in pain, and the dark eyed women experienced a 55% reduction in pain, or said differently, light eyed pregnant woman had greater pain tolerance. They also found that the light eyed women had a lesser incidence of postpartum depression and anxiety.

So what does all of this mean?  Well, this was a pilot study that was presented at a conference and has not been submitted to the peer reviewed publication process. I assume they will use these preliminary findings as a jump off point for further study and it will be interesting to follow this.  As I’ve said before, the future of Healthcare is trending towards personalized medicine where treatment will be much more based on addressing the issues of a particular individual more effectively, rather than the one size fits all model.

The upshot?  We did away with the one size fits all model long ago.  Our treatment plans are unique to your situation and in addition to the injury itself, we look at what caused the injury biomechanically, what else that injury has affected, and the most effective modality to fix the problem and have it not recur.  Will we be basing that treatment plan on your eye color? No.  But will the results of future study impact the direction of the field of pain management in the future?  Maybe…we’ll have to wait and see!

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Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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