Cataract Risk Linked to Climate Change

Rising UV levels will hit developing countries hardest
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 7, 2008 4:03 PM CDT
A Cuban eye surgeon operates a Bolivian Aymara peasant. As UV levels increase in coming decades, people who don't protect their eyes run the risk of developing blinding cataracts.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – As climate change drives ozone depletion and increases the level of ultraviolet rays reaching Earth's surface, humans' eyesight will be suffering more and more, AFP reports. UV rays are one of the leading causes of cataracts, which in turn cause 50% of avoidable blindness worldwide. The trend is likely to have the biggest impact in developing nations.

Cataracts are reversible with surgery, but "those who are most at risk of vision loss are people with no access to services to reverse the condition," one expert explains. UV damage can be prevented or diminished by wearing sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats. The biggest contributing factors to cataract risk are old age and smoking, with sun exposure coming in third.