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Living in an area with strong air pollution increases the risk of glaucoma

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Posted November 27, 2019

More and more people choose to live in cities. They are looking for more opportunity, bigger salaries and a different standard of living. However, they are putting themselves in harms way of pollution. A new  UCL-led study revealed that people who live in areas with greater air pollution are at greater risk of developing glaucoma.

More and more people are moving to cities, where air pollution is a bigger threat to health. Image credit: Jimmy McIntyre via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Scientists researched 111,370 participants of the UK Biobank study cohort. They underwent eye tests from 2006 to 2010 at sites across Britain and were asked a bunch of questions, including whether they have glaucoma. Data that was collected was then linked to the living area of these people. Of course, researchers looked specifically at air pollution data in different areas. Scientists found that people in the most-polluted 25% of areas were 18% more likely to report having glaucoma than those in the least-polluted 25 %.

Not only that but they also had thinner retinas, which is one of the factors of glaucoma progression. Scientists believe this is because air pollution constricts blood vessels. This is why it is believed that air pollution is bad for your cardiovascular system. And that’s just the beginning – air pollution increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, pulmonary conditions and a huge variety of other smaller and bigger health problems. If you live in a highly polluted area, you are more likely to die early.

Professor Paul Foster, lead author of the study, said: “Most risk factors for glaucoma are out of our control, such as older age or genetics. It’s promising that we may have now identified a second risk factor for glaucoma, after eye pressure, that can be modified by lifestyle, treatment or policy changes”.

And glaucoma is no joke – it  is the leading global cause of irreversible blindness and affects over 60 million people worldwide. It has several different mechanisms, most commonly results from a build-up of pressure from fluid in the eye. In fact, glaucoma is a neurodegenerative disease, meaning that nerve damage progresses and things get worse with time. There are several treatment options, but all of them provide just a temporary solution – there is no treatment for glaucoma.

We are already doing our best to deal with air pollution. You should do your part too. Choose public transport or ride a bicycle. Choose a train over a plane. Recycle and avoid heating with fire. Also, reconsider your decision to move to a big city – living a little further from all this noise and pollution may be more relaxing and better for your health.

 

Source: UCL

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