Research shows that people with red hair may have more sensitivity to certain types of pain and require 20% more anesthesia. Researchers believe that this may be due to a mutation in a gene that affects hair color and one's perception of pain, among other things. The amount of red pigment in the hair can be determined by one gene (MC1R).
Mutation in the MC1R gene results in the production of a substance called pheonmelanin that results in red hair and fair skin. The MC1R gene is also expressed in small amounts in the brain where pain signals are interpreted and perceived. The MC1R gene and its association with the brain is not fully understood by scientists and is currently being studied.
Some research suggest that red heads experience difference sensations when compared to people with other hair colors. For instance, a person with the gene for red hair typically has a lower tolerance to cold weather. In addition, they are less responsive to anaesthetics and require more pain medications, while also being less tolerant of inflammatory pain. The gene may also cause increased sensitivity while visiting the dentist and some patients may require more Novocain to tolerate the procedures.
Further, people with the MC1R gene report they avoid dental appointments more because of fear and anxiety. Studies also indicate that red heads may be more prone to illness because they prefer to keep out of the sun and therefore lack vitamin D. Their ability to absorb vitamin D is also less efficient.
So does the MC1R gene really impact a persons sensitivity to pain? The jury is still out and we do not know the correct answer. Some research suggests that red heads do feel pain differently, while other research does not. With inconclusive evidence, research regarding this topic has become increasingly popular. Let us know what you think.
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