A recent study found that even small rise in pollution levels corresponded with an increase in incidents of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of irreversible blindness among people over 50. Although prior studies had exposed a link between air pollution and glaucoma, the suspected link to cataracts was yet to be determined. Recent findings have shown the high flow of blood within the eyes makes them vulnerable to damage caused by inhaled air pollution.
The study, a first to research the correlation between air pollution and the diagnosis of AMD, found a small increase in small pollution particle exposure, raised the risk of AMD by 8%, and small changes in larger pollution particles were linked to a 12% higher risk of adverse retinal issues. Historically, the biggest risk factors for AMD were genetics and poor health. As society has become healthier, the impact from air pollution has become more important.
Air pollution is being linked to an increased number of diseases. The World Health Organization believes that almost 90% of the world population deal with air pollution and a 2019 review showed that air pollution can damage almost every organ in the human body.
“There is an enormously high flow of blood to the retina and we think that as a consequence of that the distribution of pollutants is greater to the eye than to other places,” said Prof Paul Foster, at University College London, UK, and who was part of the study team. “Proportionately, air pollution is going to become a bigger risk factor as other risk factors are brought under control.”