Air Pollution And Your Eyes
New research from Taiwan has shown that exposure to two pollutants, carbon dioxide (CO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), appear to increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease that can lead to blurry vision and, sometimes, blindness in one or both eyes. The study included 39,819 men and women age 50 and older who lived in urban areas of Taiwan. The participants had their vision assessed during the course of the study and were followed for 11 years. Results showed that the greatest rates of AMD occurred among those in the study group living in areas with the highest concentrations of NO2 and CO. The researchers reported that long-term exposure to the highest amounts of NO2 almost doubled the risk for AMD and that exposure to the highest amounts of CO increased the risk by 84 percent. Study leader Suh-Hang Hank Juo, M.D., Ph.D., from the Center for Myopia and Eye Disease at China Medical University Hospital in Taiwan, was quoted in news reports as saying that the pollutants responsible enter the body via inhalation, not through the eyes. He added that avoiding heavily trafficked areas, especially during rush hours probably is the best way to lower the risk.
My take? These findings give us important new information about potential contributors to macular degeneration and yet another reason to avoid air pollution as much as possible. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the U.S. among those over the age of 55, with a new case diagnosed every three minutes, on average. Some forms of the condition run in families and likely has a genetic component.
Suh-Hang Hank Juo et al, “Traffic-related air pollutants increase the risk for age-related macular degeneration,” BMJ Journal of Investigative Medicine, August 19, 2019, doi: 10.1136/jim-2019-001007
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