Air pollution is linked to an increased risk of progressive and irreversible vision loss, known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), revealing a large long-term study conducted by UCL researchers.
According to published findings, they found that people in the dirtiest areas were at least 8% more likely to report having AMD. British Journal of Ophthalmology.
Lead author Professor Paul Foster (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology) said: “Here we have strengthened the evidence that improving the air we breathe should be an important public health priority, and we identified another health risk caused by air pollution. An area of combustion-related particles from road traffic can contribute to eye diseases.
“Even relatively low exposure to air pollution seems to affect the risk of AMD, indicating that air pollution is a major modifiable risk factor for large numbers of people that affects the risk of eye disease.”
AMD is the leading cause of irreversible blindness among people over the age of 50 in high-income countries, and the number affected is estimated to reach 300 million by 2040. Known risk factors include advanced age, smoking, and genetic makeup.
While air pollution is involved in brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and stroke, a 2019 study by the same research team found that air pollution is linked to an increased risk of glaucoma. Particulate matter exposure is one of the strongest predictors of mortality among air pollutants.
The researchers used data from 115,954 UK Biobank study participants aged 40-69 at the start of this study in 2006 to see if air pollution would be included in the risk of AMD.
Participants were asked to report any AMD diagnosis by a doctor. And structural changes in the thickness and / or numbers of light receptors in the retina – indicative of AMD – were evaluated in 52,602 of the participants with full data using retinal imaging (non-invasive optical coherence tomography) in 2009 and 2012. or OCT).
Ambient air pollution measurements include those for particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Estimates for these were provided by the Small Area Health Statistics Unit under the BioSHaRE-EU Environmental Determinants of Health Project. Official information on traffic, land use and topography was used to calculate the annual average air pollution levels at the participants’ home addresses.
The research team found that people in areas with higher levels of fine particulate matter contamination were more likely to report having AMD (specifically, they found an 8% difference in AMD risk between people living in the 25th and 75th percentile of pollution levels). take into account potentially influencing factors such as underlying health conditions and lifestyle. All pollutants except coarse particulate matter were associated with changes in retinal structure.
Researchers caution that this observational study cannot verify the cause, but their findings are consistent with evidence from elsewhere in the world.
While they have not yet been able to confirm a mechanism, they suggest that ambient air pollution could reasonably be associated with AMD through oxidative stress or inflammation.
The first author of the article, Dr. adverse changes and increases the risk of AMD. ”
The study was funded by Moorfields Eye Charity, the NIHR Biomedical Research Center at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, the Alcon Research Institute and the International Glaucoma Society.
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