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Air Pollution Linked to Vision Loss

A recent study in the British Journal of Ophthalmology links urban air pollution with an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), AMD causes retinal damage resulting in the loss of central vision. It’s a primary cause of vision loss in people aged 50 or older.

In the 2020 journal article, researchers from the UK Biobank Eye and Vision Consortium describe their study of nearly 116,000 people aged 40 to 69. Those living in highly polluted areas had an 8 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with AMD.

Raj K. Maturi, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the AAO, says the exact mechanism for the connection isn’t clear, but “we do know that increased inflammation can increase risk of dry macular degeneration, and pollutants increase inflammatory responses.”

According to the AAO, “symptoms (of AMD) include loss of central vision, blurry vision or seeing ‘wavy’ lines. During the early phases of AMD, people often notice no changes to their vision. Because of this, getting your eyes checked regularly by an ophthalmologist is critical.” 

The AAO also suggests lifestyle changes for minimizing the risk of vision loss from AMD. They include eating an “eye-healthy diet,” exercising regularly, and not smoking.

Research sourced by Rudrani Banik, M.D., of EnVision Health NYC. For more information, visit


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