What would you think if I said your eye color can tell me how well you can handle pain? You might be a little skeptical. But, hold on, because preliminary research suggests it could be the case.
As pain management specialists, we strive to understand why some of our patients tolerate pain better than others, as well as the factors that influence which pain management therapies are most appropriate to the individual.
Eye color may soon become another biomarker we can use. Already, we know that people with red hair are resistant to anesthesia and require more of it during dental procedures.
In the new study of eye color, researchers compared pain tolerance and the effect of an epidural during childbirth among a group of 58 white pregnant women—24 with dark-colored eyes (brown or hazel) and 34 with light-colored eyes (blue or green).
The women with light-colored eyes:
- Tolerated pain better during childbirth
- Had less post-partum anxiety and depression
The women with dark-colored eyes:
- Had a greater reduction in pain with an epidural, suggesting higher sensitivity to pain
- Experienced a 60% reduction in pain at rest with the epidural and a 55% reduction during movement; it was 45% and 40% among the women with light-colored eyes, respectively
While these early results are fascinating, we must be cautious about drawing definitive conclusions. The results showed a trend in pain reduction, but were not statistically or clinically significant. Further studies are needed to explore the potential link between pain and eye color among women who are not pregnant, men and children.
If eye color is shown to be a genetic biomarker, it would offer a practical approach to assessing a patient’s pain sensitivity. Clinicians can recognize biomarkers instantly and can use them to tailor their approach to pain management to the individual. Patients ultimately would benefit, as they may experience greater pain relief and improved quality of life.
Learn about pain management at our hospitals.