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August 11, 2009

Redheads Have Lower Pain Thresholds


The New York Times on Aug 6, 2009 published a story "The Pain of Being a Redhead" that describes research why redheads experience more pain than other individuals.

Apparently, red hair color is caused by variants of the melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) gene. People with naturally red hair are resistant to subcutaneous local anesthetics and, therefore, may experience increased anxiety and pain regarding dental care as well as other surgical procedures. Having this gene variant significantly affected a patient's level of anxiety and pain experience when compared to others, even when controlled for general trait anxiety and sex.

It may behoove surgeons to be aware and appropriately adjust medications to take the findings of this research into consideration when dealing with their redhead patients.

Though research has not born out that redheads "bleed" more, it does bring up the thought that if a redhead has more pain and increased anxiety from a surgical procedure, it may raise their blood pressure which IS associated with greater bleeding risk.

Read more about this story here.

Reference:
Genetic Variations Associated With Red Hair Color and Fear of Dental Pain, Anxiety Regarding Dental Care and Avoidance of Dental Care. The Journal of the American Dental Association (July 2009) 140, 896-905. doi: 10.14219/jada.archive.2009.0283
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids. Google+ Christopher Chang, MD Bio

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