Exfoliation syndrome, an eye condition causing glaucoma and cataract development, is influenced by outside temperatures and sun exposure, as well as patient’s age and gender. Coauthor Louis Pasquale said, “Although many studies from around the world have reported on the burden of the disease, some aspects of the basic descriptive epidemiologic features, which may help shed light on the cause, are inconsistent. In this study, we found that women are more vulnerable to this disease than men, that ES [exfoliation syndrome] is not a disease of Norwegian descent, and that where you live does matter when it comes to developing the disease.”
The researchers looked at data from 78,955 women and 41,191 men who were followed for 20 years.
The authors wrote, “Importantly, those with a lifetime residential history of living in the middle tier and south tier of the United States [were] associated with 47 percent and 75 percent reduced risks, respectively, compared with living in the northern tier, and across the lifespan, residence at age 15 was the most strongly associated with risk, followed by current residence.”
The study also uncovered that:
- A positive family history of glaucoma was associated with double the risk of developing exfoliation syndrome.
- Scandinavian or Southern European descent was not associated with the risk. Overall, the study lacked adequate data to determine whether incidence rates differed by minority groups.
- Eye color was not a risk factor.
Dr. Pasquale explained, “This large prospective cohort study demonstrates that there is a positive association between latitude and ES risk that is robust and not related to demographic features or other systemic covariates. Another manuscript we published recently suggests that lower ambient temperature interacts with increased solar exposure to increase the risk of ES. This new work demonstrates a relation between increasing latitude and a condition with a strong predisposition to glaucoma. More work is needed to determine how environmental factors conspire to contribute to ES.”
Outdoor activities may increase the odds of developing exfoliation syndrome in the eyes
Exfoliation syndrome is a known risk factor for glaucoma and cataracts. There is evidence suggesting that climate changes increase the risk of developing exfoliation syndrome. For example, Aboriginal Australians who spend majority of their time outdoors have higher incidences of exfoliation syndrome, but additional research is required to fully understand the link between UV ray exposure and exfoliation syndrome.
Every hour we spend outside in the summer over the course of our lifetime increases the risk of exfoliation syndrome by four percent. The risk of exfoliation syndrome in the U.S. is only two percent if sunglasses are worn.
The authors wrote, “This work provides evidence for a role of reflected UV rays in contributing to XFS [exfoliation syndrome]. It by no means excludes other genetic and environmental mechanisms in XFS pathogenesis. If confirmed in other studies, there could be reason to consider more widespread use of UV-blocking eyewear in the prevention of XFS.”