Most of the body’s organs are internal, which helps shield them from direct environmental assault. But the eye, which is one of the most essential and complex sensory organs we have, is largely unprotected most of the day. This leaves it particularly vulnerable to environmental factors like climate change.
The dangers posed by environmental factors have been researched extensively in recent years with a focus on the impact of climate change on human health.
Optometrist Dr Ali Khalife summaries three most likely ways that environmental change can affect our eyes.
- The first has to do with the expansion of arid regions in the United States and around the globe. As areas of the planet get hotter and less humid, people who suffer from dry eye may see an escalation in symptoms. And since dry eye doesn’t always produce symptoms early on, more and more people may recognize that they have the condition and start seeking treatment that they may not have otherwise needed.
- Climate change can also affect our eyes due to increases in airborne particulates. longer fire seasons and crop clearing as key offenders, emitting pollutants that can cause serious harm to the eyes. In fact, eye irritants from smoke emitted by cooking fires led to increased scarring of the eyelids and cornea in people with trachoma, which is the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide.
- A third way that environmental changes can be harmful to our eyes relates to depletion of the protective ozone layer in the Earth’s atmosphere, which absorbs most of the damaging (UV) rays emitted by the sun. Though recent international treaties may help reverse damage to the ozone layer, the repair will take decades. In the meantime, UV exposure remains a risk factor for cataracts and other eye diseases.
It is estimated that UV exposure will lead to an additional 150,000 to 200,000 cases of cataract by 2050, with a price tag exceeding one billion dollars for care and surgical treatment. And that’s in addition to the huge number of cases that would otherwise be diagnosed.
For more information on eye health and eye conditions or to find your local Eyecare Plus optometrist visit:www.eyecarevision.com.au
Optometrists are experts in vision care who diagnose, manage and treat a wide range of vision problems, eye diseases and ocular conditions. By prescribing spectacles, contact lenses, vision aides and other treatments, optometrists help their patients maximise and retain good vision for life