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Air Pollution Linked to Higher Risk of Irreversible Sight Loss

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Small increases in air pollution are linked to an increased risk of irreversible sight loss from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a large United Kingdom study has found.

Previous work had already found a link between dirty air and glaucoma and a link to cataracts is suspected. The scientists said the eyes have a particularly high flow of blood, potentially making them very vulnerable to the damage caused by tiny particles that are breathed in and then flow around the body.

The study is the first to assess the connection between air pollution and both diagnoses of AMD that the patients said they had been given, and measurements of harmful changes in the retina. 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.

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