A large UK study has linked air pollution to increased rates of glaucoma, adding to a growing body of evidence suggesting environmental factors might add to development and progression of the disease.
According to research recently conducted by University College London (UCL), people living in neighbourhoods with high levels of fine particulate matter in the air were 6% more likely to have glaucoma than those in less polluted areas.
“We found a striking correlation between particulate matter exposure and glaucoma,” Professor Paul Foster, lead author on the study, said.
The study included 111,370 participants throughout Britain who received eye tests between 2006 and 2010. As well as being asked if they had glaucoma, participants received an optical coherence tomography scan and had their intraocular pressure (IOP) measured.
Each patient’s result was compared against the level of pollution near their home, which researchers focussing on the rate of fine particulate matter in the air. Fine particulate matter, which are particles are equal to or less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, can come from a variety of polluting sources such as wood fires and vehicle engines.
Researchers found that those living in the most-polluted 25% of areas were 6% more likely to report having glaucoma than those in the least-polluted quartile. Additionally, people in the most polluted area were also more likely to have a thinner retina. Despite this, no association was found with elevated IOP levels.
“Given that this was in the UK, which has relatively low particulate matter pollution on the global scale, glaucoma may be even more strongly impacted by air pollution elsewhere in the world,’ Foster said.
“And as we did not include indoor air pollution and workplace exposure in our analysis, the real effect may be even greater.”
Which it has not been confirmed exactly how air pollution and glaucoma are linked, Foster said the team would like to continue their research to find if there are any avoidance strategies that could help people mitigate health risks.
The research has been published in the journal Ophthalmology & Visual Science.