08.04.2016

Connection Found Between Environmental Changes and Eye Health

Connection Found Between Environmental Changes and Eye Health

There's evidence that climate change is affecting more than just the weather and coastlines. As the environment changes for the worse, there may be negative consequences for your health. Arid land expansion, air pollution, and increasing exposure to UV radiation all present dangers to your eyes. Several parts of our eyes, including the cornea, eyelid, sclera (white part), and lens are exposed to the air, putting them in direct contact with the new, adverse conditions.

Across the globe temperatures are rising and atmospheric circulation patterns are changing, causing arid land areas to grow larger. As dry air moves into new territories, there are fewer inches of annual rainfall than in the past. While there's no evidence to support that dry air can cause dry-eye, it can make the symptoms worse for people who already suffer from the condition.

There are other dangers caused by climate change, as well. As drought conditions become more widespread, the chance of wildfires increases, too. Dry air carries much more particulate matter, like smoke and ash, which leads to eye irritation, as well as respiratory disorders. It's even been linked to eye disease. The types of problems most commonly seen in farm workers who participate in controlled burns for the purpose of crop clearing are now being seen in much larger numbers across wider areas of the world.

Particulate matter and pollution caused by fires can accelerate the scarring associated with trachoma, an infectious eye disease, and the leading cause of blindness in the entire world. Also called Chlamydia trachomatis, the bacterial infection spreads through direct contact of the eye or nasal fluids. Repeated infections throughout life will results in accumulated scarring, which is worsened still by drought and wildfires.

The trouble doesn't end there, either, depleted levels of ozone gas allow more UV light through the Earth's atmosphere, leading to increasing numbers of cataracts. Prolonged exposure to UV light damages the proteins within the eye, causing the lens to become cloudy. It's estimated that by the year 2050, an additional 150,000 to 200,000 people will develop cataracts due to UV exposure, on top of the number of people who already develop it simply due to age.

Luckily, UV protection is easy to come by. Simply wearing a hat can potentially reduce UV exposure by a third, contact lenses and sunglasses are also capable of blocking all UV light completely.


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