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Climate change and its impact on ocular pathologies

Title of Article: Impact of Climate Change on Eye Diseases and Associated Economical Costs

What are the key takeaway points from this article?

Amidst the waves of smoke and haze from Canada’s wildfires, worsening air quality is affecting tens of millions of North Americans from coast to coast. With cities like Toronto and Ottawa seeing the worst air quality ever recorded and temperatures rising to record highs, people cannot help but wonder how climate change is impacting the health of Canadians. In the literature, there is little known about the impacts of climate change on the eye; hence a group of physicians in Southern Spain investigated the relationship between climate change and ocular diseases.

Several ocular diseases were identified to have an association with environmental variables attributed to climate change. The incidence of these ocular diseases were investigated in regions of Spain such as Malaga and Almeria that have experienced severe changes in environmental conditions. Variables such as temperature, humidity, UV radiation (UVR), and particulate matter (PM) have all shown increases in severity in these regions and have been associated with ocular pathology.

The study revealed that in terms of retinal pathology, each heatwave increased the risk of a tractional retinal detachment by 2.47x for people <75yo. For those who spend >5h/day in the sun between ages 15-30 have increased macular pigment, soft drusen, and increased chance of early AMD (due to UVR and malnutrition from crop scarcity). Rates of Glaucoma had a positive correlation with UVR and PM. Furthermore, these regions have seen a 3.77x increased incidence of glaucoma over a 6-year period. The risk of ocular Herpes Simplex Virus reactivation increased by 33% with a UV index >4, which are considered normal UV levels in Southern Spain during the summer. In terms of autoimmune diseases leading to non-infectious uveitis, increases in PM particles have been associated with an 31% risk increase for Rheumatoid Arthritis and >61% increase for Ankylosing Spondylitis. Rises in UVR have positive correlations with the incidence of both Scleroderma and systemic lupus erythematosus.

With changes in climate, comes changes in the health of patients. Ophthalmologists should be aware of the impacts climate change has on human health and work to educate patients on protective and preventive measures for ocular health. They must also be prepared for a potential surge in disease burden.

Publication date: July 2021


Echevarría-Lucas L, Senciales-González JM, Medialdea-Hurtado ME, Rodrigo-Comino J. Impact of Climate Change on Eye Diseases and Associated Economical Costs. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jul 5;18(13):7197. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18137197. PMID: 34281132; PMCID: PMC8297364.

Summary by: Hasan Khan


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