Technology & Unanticipated Consequences

I’ve long been intrigued by the growing literature on technology’s unanticipated consequences. Examples range from the argument that better technology makes sports like tennis worse, not better; to how indiscriminate use of antibiotics has helped create hardier strains of bacteria and viruses; to how the near-ubiquitous use of air conditioning in cities can raise outdoor temperatures, putting more load on air conditioning systems.

Anyway, I ran into a story today that isn’t exactly in the same vein, but it is close enough that I thought it worth repeating. From the July issue of the Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery:

Post-LASIK myopic shift after a trek in the North Pole

Bilateral laser in situ keratomileusis was performed in a 37-year-old male ethnic Chinese adventurer. Eight weeks postoperatively, the patient made an unassisted trek to the geographic North Pole. After 2 weeks in this environment, a myopic shift of more than -1.50 diopters occurred in both eyes. The myopic shift resolved over 2 months when the patient returned to a tropical climate. By use of Orbscan corneal topography, the authors propose that the myopic shift was attributed to biomechanical changes in the cornea induced by corneal dehydration in the Arctic environment.

Fascinating. While I’d heard of some people who had their eyes corrected with PRK experiencing problems at altitude, this is the first example I’ve heard where refractive surgery has caused problems based on lattitude.


  1. Greg Newton says:

    It’s the same thing; my $5 says that the altitude issue is caused by the horrible recycled DRIED OUT (emph not S.) air prevalent in BA/EADS cigar tubes. It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. Speaking of which…

  2. Perhaps, but the argument I have heard about PRK at altitude is that is a pressure-related deformation of the eye. Not really about dryness at all.