Why do most people go to their doctors? One word: pain. It is the most common motivation behind any long wait in a health care provider’s office and accounts for more than 70 million physician office visits annually. Pain, then, is a top concern for many researchers, some of whom may be more apt to explore the differences in perceptions of pain rather than investigate causes ofpain. For instance, Dr. Inna Belfer, a geneticist at the University of Pittsburgh, discovered that women with blue or green eyes handle hurt better than those with brown or hazel eyes.
“Human pain is correlated with multiple factors like gender, age, and hair color,” Belfer said in a symposium at the American Pain Society‘s annual meeting. “Researchers have found that red hair is associated with resistance to anesthetics and also to increased anxiety and darker eye color has been reportedly found to correlate with increased physiologic reactivity and drug-induced pupil dilation.”
Belfer conducted a study of 58 women who were expecting babies and planned to give birth at UPMC Magee Women’s Hospital. The researchers divided the women into two groups based on eye color: 24 women in the dark group (brown or hazel eye color) and 34 women in the light group (blue or green eye color). Next, the researchers assessed antepartum and postpartum pain, mood, sleep, and coping behavior. What did Belfer and her colleagues discover? The women in the light-eyed group seemed to cope with childbirth the best. Not only did they become less anxious once their baby had arrived, they also were less likely to become depressed. Other researchers in the field believe genes linked to melanin may strongly influence pain experiences; this pigment, found in the brain, is linked to darker-colored eyes.
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