Living in a polluted area could increase your risk of developing glaucoma, one of the most common causes of vision loss.
Few studies have analyzed the relationship between pollution and glaucoma. However, since ninety percent of the Earth's population breathes air that is over the World Health Organization's limits for air pollution, it is certainly worth researching the connection between air quality and eye health.
Particulate Matter and Air Quality
Air quality is measured by amounts of particulate matter, the sum of all solid and liquid particles suspended in air molecules. Particulate matter includes both organic and inorganic particles and can include pollen, dust, smoke and soot.
Exposure to particulate matter is one of the strongest predictors of mortality due to air pollutants. Poor air quality increases the risk for lung and heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.
Air Pollution and Glaucoma
According to a recent study from the University College London, people who live in areas in the United Kingdom with higher amounts of pollution were more likely to report they had glaucoma than people who live in less polluted areas.
The study found that people who lived in the most-polluted 25 percent of areas were at least six percent more likely to say they had glaucoma than people in the least polluted areas. They were also more likely to have a thinner retina, which is one of the hallmarks of glaucoma progression. Pollution did not seem to affect inner eye pressure, which researchers usually associate with glaucoma progression. The team concluded air pollution must influence glaucoma development through a different route.
Paul Foster, Ph.D., is the study's lead author and a professor of ophthalmic epidemiology and glaucoma studies at UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital. "We have found yet another reason why air pollution should be addressed as a public health priority, and that avoiding sources of air pollution could be worthwhile for eye health alongside other health concerns," Dr. Foster recently told Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. "While we cannot confirm yet that the association is causal, we hope to continue our research to determine whether air pollution does indeed cause glaucoma, and to find out if there are any avoidance strategies that could help people reduce their exposure to air pollution to mitigate the health risks."
Glaucoma Risk Factors
Glaucoma is the leading cause of vision loss among adults, second only to cataracts. Many glaucoma risk factors cannot be controlled, such as genetics and age. However, healthy lifestyle habits, exercise and proper nutrition can help reduce glaucoma risk.
Perhaps this new information will prompt legislators to create policy changes regarding air quality. In the meantime, you can help protect your own vision health by keeping up with your yearly comprehensive eye exams.
Call your ophthalmologist today to make an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam. Annual eye exams can preserve your eye health by detecting eye diseases like glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts in early stages when they are more treatable.