Now scientists say climate change is making us BLIND
- University of Toronto researchers looked at 1.7million adults over 65 years old
- Those in warmer areas were up to 44 percent more likely to have vision problems
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Climate change may be speeding up the rate of blindness, a study suggests.
Canadian researchers compared rates of vision problems among 1.7million people across all 50 states in the US.
They found those who lived in warmer regions were up to nearly 50 percent more likely to suffer serious vision impairment compared to those in cooler places.
Exposure to stronger ultraviolet light damages the cornea, lens and retina and also risks irritation and infection.
The experts said the findings were ‘very worrying’ in the context of global warming, which has seen global average temperatures rise by 1.6 fahrenheit (F) since the late 1800s.
Study co-author Esme Fuller-Thomson, a gerontologist at the University of Toronto, said: ‘With climate change, we are expecting a rise in global temperatures. It will be important to monitor if the prevalence of vision impairment among older adults increases in the future.’
Scientists suggested that more exposure to sunlight led to further damage from ultraviolet light, raising the risk of vision problems
Dr Thomson, who is also the director of the University of Toronto’s Institute of Life Course Aging, added: ‘This link between vision impairment and average county temperature is very worrying, if future research determines that the association is causal,
The study, published in the journal Ophthalmic Epidemiology, looked at people aged 65 years and up between 2012 and 2017.
For the survey, participants answered the question: ‘Is this person blind or does he/she have serious difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses?’
I went partially blind after getting sunburn in my EYES
Dana Galiano, 47, from New Jersey, burnt her eyes while on a family beach trip to Ocean City in July last year.
Those who answered ‘yes’ were considered to have severe vision impairment.
In the paper, conditions patients were likely to have had included cataracts, where the eye’s lens becomes cloudy and one of the leading causes of blindness in the US, glaucoma, when the optic nerve is damaged, and conjunctivitis, or inflammation of the eye lining due to irritation or infection.
Compared to people living in states with an average temperature below 50F like New York and Maine, those in states with temperatures above 60F — Florida, Texas and Georgia — faced the highest risk.
Those who lived in areas with an average annual temperature of 55 to 59.99F — such as Virginia, Kentucky and California — were 24 percent more likely to have vision problems.
People in states with an average temperature of 50 to 54.99F were 14 percent more likely to struggle.
Scientists warned that the study was observational, meaning it could not prove that warmer temperatures were leading to vision problems. They said further research was needed.
But in the paper, the University of Toronto-led team suggested several hypotheses for how warmer weather was raising the risk of vision problems.
One theory suggested that the increased exposure to ultraviolet light from sunlight was leading to more damage to the lens and other sections of the eye, raising the risk of conditions like cataracts.
Higher temperatures could also raise the risk of vision problems by increasing the chance of catching an infectious disease, they said, such as fungal keratitis — when a fungus infects a part of the eye.
Warmer weather also leads to more pollutants in the air, which scientists warn can change the structure of parts of the eye.
In their conclusion, the scientists said: ‘If the association is found to be causal, the predicted rise in global temperatures could impact the number of older Americans affected by severe vision impairment and the associated health and economic burden.’
More than 24million Americans are affected by cataracts every year, one of the most common conditions of the eye and the leading cause of blindness in the US.
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