Radio Frequency Radiation Dosimetry and Its Relationship to the Biological Effects of Electromagnetic Fields

Volume 82 of the series NATO Science Series pp 395-402

Effects of Microwave and Millimeter Wave Radiation on the Eye

  • J. A. D’AndreaAffiliated withNaval Health Research Center Detachment
  • , S. ChalfinAffiliated withOphthalmology Department, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

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Exposure of the eye to microwave radiation can lead to intraocular temperature increase sufficient to damage tissues. The eye of mammalian species does not efficiently remove heat. Within the anterior segment of the eye, active thermal transport is not known to occur. Conduction through the sclera and convection from the surface of the cornea is the primary avenue for heat dissipation which is poor compared to many other tissues in the body. The anterior segment can be closer to ambient temperature than the posterior segment. On the other hand, a primary avenue of heat dissipation in the posterior segment of the eye is bloodflow through the choroidal vascular system which lies just inside the sclera. It is thought to act as a heat sink and maintain a stable thermal environment for rod and cone cell metabolism in the retina [1, 2, 3]. Bloodflow throughout the retina may also serve to maintain a stable thermal environment for the photoreceptors. Many investigators have postulated that the poor heat dissipation capability from within the anterior segment of the eye of humans and other animals may lead to heat buildup and subsequent thermal damage [4]. For many, this has implied that the eye is sensitive to heating and especially sensitive to heat deposited within the anterior segment of the eye by deeper penetrating microwaves. Early investigations of microwave produced eye damage focused on the production of cataracts. In the past several years, new studies have investigated microwave effects on the retina, iris vasculature, and corneal endothelium.