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Study finds air pollution increases risk of progressive vision loss

Researchers have found a link between air pollution and macular degeneration, among other serious eyesight conditions.

The British Journal of Ophthalmology published a large observational study where researchers discovered a link between serious air pollution and the risk of developing age-related macular generation (AMD).

The development of AMD can be caused by a number of factors, including old age, weight, high blood pressure, and genetic traits inherited from family members. However, scientists are yet to pinpoint a specific trigger for the condition.

Air Pollution
Photo: AP

Studies into stem cell research and gene therapies have been conducted to find a potential cure for AMD, however, more study must be done to understand how the condition develops.

To add insult to injury, air pollution can now be added to the list of causal factors. As part of the study, researchers discovered that air pollution increases the risk of AMD by 8 per cent.

“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,” lead author Professor Paul Foster said.

“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.”

The researchers conducted a study of 115,954 participants, between the ages of 40 and 69, from the UK Biobank (UKBB). These participants had no visual impairments at the beginning of the study in 2006 and underwent a series of regular self-reports, retinal imaging, and structural change assessments. By 2009 and 2012, 52,602 participants of the original group had completed data sets.

In the 52,602 participants, 75 per cent had a clinical diagnosis of AMD and had structural changes in their eye which were related to the condition. Out of the total group of 115,954, 1286 participants were diagnosed with AMD.

Although the findings are in line with similar studies from around the world, researchers note that this was an observational study and that “more works need to be done to understand the potential link between air pollution and AMD.”