Relatively small increases in air pollution can be linked to an increased risk of vision loss from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a recent UK study has found.
Furthermore there is also a link between glaucoma and air pollution. Scientists said eyes and particularly the retina has one of the highest metabolic rates in the body. This is served by the choroid which is the layer just behind the retina. Due to the very high flow of blood, this makes the retina very vulnerable to the damage caused by tiny pollution particles. These particles are breathed in, finish up in the lungs and subsequently contaminate the blood flow all round the body, including into the eye.
The study is the first to evaluate a connection between air pollution and age related macular degeneration (AMD). It found a small increase in exposure to tiny pollution particles raised the risk of AMD by 8%, while small changes in larger pollution particles and nitrogen dioxide were linked to a 12% higher risk of adverse retinal changes including macular damage.
AMD is a leading cause of irreversible blindness among the older population in the UK. In the UK about 5% of people over 65 years old have signs of macular change. There are two main types of macular degeneration, dry and wet. The dry type is generally slow in progression and eventually causes spots of missing vision in the centre of the sight. The wet type progresses much more quickly, if not treated. The vast majority of macular degeneration is the dry type.
Risk factors for AMD are genetics, poor physical health issues, e.g. smoking, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Poor physical health issues can be addressed with an improved diet and an increase in exercise. One way to reduce air pollution is the change from an internal combustion engine (ICE) to an electric car. These air pollution data figures were levels of outdoor pollution but the writers in the article said levels inside homes were likely to be important too. Anything that produces smoke is likely to be increasing some of the risk to one’s sight. Wood burners increase the level of harmful pollution particles in the air. An indoor wood burner is going to pollute the indoor air significantly, especially if the room is poorly ventilated. It is likely that this has a harmful effect on vision as well creating other health issues such as lung damage.