Study proves shock wave from explosives causes significant eye damage

June 30, 2014 by K.c. Gonzalez, University of Texas at San Antonio
UTSA research may help prevent eye injuries among soldiers exposed to explosive blasts. Credit: Tim Luukonnen, The University of Texas at San Antonio

Researchers at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) are discovering that the current protective eyewear used by our U.S. armed forces might not be adequate to protect soldiers exposed to explosive blasts.

According to a recent study, ocular injuries now account for 13 percent of all battlefield injuries and are the fourth most common military deployment-related injury.

With the support of the U.S. Department of Defense, UTSA biomedical engineering assistant professor Matthew Reilly and distinguished senior lecture in geological sciences Walter Gray have been collaborating with researchers at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at Joint Base San Antonio Fort Sam Houston and the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio to understand the unseen effects that can occur as a result of a blast injury.

In a basement laboratory at Fort Sam Houston military base, the research team has spent the last two years simulating Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blasts on postmortem pig eyes using a high-powered shock tube.

So far, they have discovered that the shock wave alone created by an IED, even in the absence of shrapnel or other particles, can cause significant damage to the eyes that could lead to partial or total blindness.

Perhaps the most striking discovery is that these blasts can damage the , which transmits information from the eye to the brain. Optic nerve injuries occur even at low pressures and could be the cause of many visual deficits, which until now have been associated traumatic brain injuries.

"There has been considerable controversy surrounding whether primary blasts could damage the eye," said Reilly. "No one had shown conclusive evidence before, perhaps because they weren't looking at the problem quite as closely as we have. We had some idea of what to look for based on results from computational models and now we have experimental data that supports this phenomenon."

This groundbreaking research will not only help physicians know what type of injuries to screen for and treat following a blast , it will also create a reliable model to test various solutions that might prevent or reduce blast damage to the eyes.

Moving forward, the research team plans to delve further into the link between the optic nerve and the brain in an effort to understand the causes and symptoms of traumatic brain injuries.

Explore further: In military personnel, no difference between blast and nonblast-related concussions

Related Stories

In military personnel, no difference between blast and nonblast-related concussions

June 16, 2014
Explosions are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries in veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. A new study shows that military personnel with mild brain trauma related to such blasts had outcomes similar ...

Pituitary hormone problems common in soldiers with moderate to severe blast-related brain injuries

September 26, 2013
A study by Medical Research Council-funded researchers has shown that traumatic brain injuries from explosions can cause hormonal problems. Soldiers who, as a result of their injuries, have problems with their pituitary gland ...

Study could lead to better treatment for child brain injuries

June 26, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—The discovery of a new link between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), pain and children with traumatic brain injuries could lead to better treatment methods, according to a new study.

Zinc supplementation shows promise in reducing cell stress after blasts

May 1, 2014
Each year, approximately 2 million traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) occur in the USA, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That number includes troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, for whom TBI is ...

Blasts may cause brain injury even without symptoms

March 3, 2014
Veterans exposed to explosions who do not report symptoms of traumatic brain injury (TBI) may still have damage to the brain's white matter comparable to veterans with TBI, according to researchers at Duke Medicine and the ...

Veterans with blast traumatic brain injury may have unrecognized pituitary dysfunction

June 23, 2014
In soldiers who survive traumatic brain injury from blast exposure, pituitary dysfunction after their blast injury may be an important, under-recognized, and potentially treatable source of their symptoms, a new study finds. ...

Recommended for you

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.