Age-Related Macular Degeneration Linked to Air Pollution

The University College of London revealed their study findings that showed a link between air pollution and a heightened risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD.)

The most polluted areas tested in the study were at least eight percent more likely to report people having AMD. The leading cause of irreversible blindness among people over 50 in high-income countries is AMD. The projected amount of people affected by 2040 is 300 million. Some risk factors include old age, smoking, and genetic composition.

Brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and strokes have been implicated in those who breathe poor air conditions as well. In 2019, a study found air pollution was linked to an elevated glaucoma risk.

Professor Paul Foster, a lead author of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology study, said, “Here we have identified yet another health risk posed by air pollution, strengthening the evidence that improving the air we breathe should be a key public health priority. Our findings suggest that living in an area with polluted air, particularly fine particulate matter, or combustion-related particles that come from road traffic, could contribute to eye disease. Even relatively low exposure to air pollution appears to impact the risk of AMD, suggesting that air pollution is an important modifiable risk factor affecting risk of eye disease for a very large number of people.”

The research was conducted with participants who were asked to report any formal doctor-diagnosed AMD. Structural changes in the thickness and/or numbers of light receptors in the retina were assessed in the participants using retinal imaging.

People in areas with high levels of fine particulate matter pollution were higher on the AMD scale. Even after taking other factors such as underlying health conditions and lifestyle, air pollutants (except coarse particulates) were associated with retinal structure changes. 

Though the study cannot confirm cause, as cautioned by the researchers, their findings align with evidence found worldwide. Ambient air pollution might be a culprit, through oxidative stress or inflammation.

Dr. Sharon Chua, of the UCL Institute of Opthamology, said, “Higher exposure to air pollution was also associated with structural features of AMD. This may indicate that higher levels of air pollution may cause the cells to be more vulnerable to adverse changes and increase the risk of AMD.”

If you have AMD or need a professional ophthalmologic evaluation, contact the office of Rohr Eye & Laser Center today.

Rohr Eye & Laser Center offers the most advanced technology available to provide personalized and extraordinary care to our patients. Whether your goal is to maintain or improve your natural vision, we are here to help you. Call us at 877-579-0202 or visit to schedule an appointment today.

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