News Stories

It's Not Easy Being Red

On Sept. 30, we wrote that "Blondes are Dying Out,"click here. Now it's been discovered that people with red hair feel more pain, and also need 20% more anesthesia during operations. Doctors think it?s because the genes that cause red hair also help manage pain.

This is especially important when redheads have surgery. Dr. Edwin Liem studied the effects of inhaled anesthesia on women aged 19 to 40. He watched for unconscious arm or leg movements in response to electric shocks and found that women with red hair needed more of the drug to stop these reflex movements compared to those with dark or blond hair. "In a nutshell, redheads are likely to experience more pain from a given stimulus and therefore require more anesthesia to alleviate that pain," he says.

Liem thinks the difference can be explained by variations in the melanocortin 1 receptor, which is linked to red hair. Melanin is the pigment responsible for skin and hair color. The sun triggers a hormone that causes the production of melanin that leads to a tan. Redheads seldom tan because they have a defective receptor for that hormone in their melanocortin-1 receptor that is also responsible for their hair color. This melanin-producing hormone may react with a related receptor on brain cells that influences pain sensitivity.

He says, "The art and science of anesthesiology is choosing the right dose. There is very little difference between the effective dose and the toxic dose of most anesthetics. Patients can awaken during surgery if they are given insufficient anesthesia or suffer cardiac and pulmonary complications when they are given too much."

Anesthesiologists have long said that redheads can be harder to put under, but no one had ever proved it. Inadequate doses of general anesthesia can allow people to remember their surgery, which can be traumatic, or even wake up. Nobody really knows how anesthesia works, and determining whether a patient is ?put under? is an art. Physicians must watch for subtle signs of an underdose, like slight movements or sweating, as well as overdose warnings such as low blood pressure or heart rate.

If you?ve got red hair, be sure to point this out to your doctors before your next operation!

Until it?s time to go under the knife, use music to heal. Steven Halpern composes exquisite music that heals both body and soul, click here.

To learn more,click here and here.

NOTE: This news story, previously published on our old site, will have any links removed.


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