Breathing polluted air can damage optic nerve, cause blindness
Glaucoma, a neurodegenerative disease, is the leading global cause of irreversible blindness.
Last Updated: Nov 26, 2019, 06.10 PM IST
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"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," said lead author Paul Foster, a professor at the University College London (UCL) in the UK.
"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," Foster said in a statement.
Glaucoma, a neurodegenerative disease, is the leading global cause of irreversible blindness and affects over 60 million people worldwide, the researchers noted.
It most commonly results from a build-up of pressure from fluid in the eye, causing damage to the optic nerve that connects the eye to the brain, they 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," Foster said.
The findings were based on 111,370 participants of the UK Biobank study cohort, who underwent eye tests from 2006 to 2010 at sites across Britain.
The participants underwent a test to measure intraocular pressure, and a laser scan of the retina to measure thickness of their eye's macula, the central area of the retina.
The participants' data was linked to air pollution measures for their home addresses, with the researchers focusing on fine particulate matter, equal or less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, or PM2.5.
The team found that people in the most-polluted 25 per cent of areas were at least six per cent more likely to report having glaucoma than those in the least-polluted quartile.
They were also significantly more likely to have a thinner retina, one of the changes typical of glaucoma progression, the researchers found.
Eye pressure was not associated with air pollution, which the researchers said suggests that air pollution may affect glaucoma risk through a different mechanism.
"Air pollution may be contributing to glaucoma due to the constriction of blood vessels, which ties into air pollution's links to an increased risk of heart problems," said the study's first author, Sharon Chua from UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital.
"Another possibility is that particulates may have a direct toxic effect damaging the nervous system and contributing to inflammation," Chua said.
The researchers noted that air pollution has been implicated in elevated risk of pulmonary and cardiovascular disease as well as brain conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and stroke.
Particulate matter exposure is one of the strongest predictors of mortality among air pollutants.
The latest study adds to previous evidence that people in urban areas are 50 per cent more likely to have glaucoma than those in rural areas, suggesting that air pollution may be a key contributor to that pattern.
"We found a striking correlation between particulate matter exposure and glaucoma. 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," he said.
Pollution On The Rise: These 6 Common Mistakes Are Hurting Your Health
Living In A Gas Chamber
6 Nov, 2019Delhi has, once again, been transformed into a gas chamber, with its residents suffering greatly. According to the government's air quality monitor, SAFAR, the overall AQI (Air Quality Index) in the National Capital, on the day after Diwali stood at 506, touching 999 at 4 am. The perpetual smog in the air is leading to numerous health issues, including: - Dryness and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin - Headache - Fatigue - Shortness of breath - Hypersensitivity and allergies - Sinus congestion - Coughing and sneezing - Dizziness - Nausea As the problem persists, we asked Dr Piyush Goyal, senior consultant, pulmonology and critical care at Gurugram's Columbia Asia Hospital, to help us decode some common mistakes that people make that may be worsening the effects of pollution.
Going For Morning Walks
6 Nov, 2019While exercising is an essential aspect of life, dire situations call for dire measures. Your daily morning walk may do more harm than benefit in these extreme weather conditions. For the upcoming days, refrain from any outdoor activity to ensure for the sake of your health.
Not Realising The Importance Of Wearing Masks
6 Nov, 2019The air quality has deteriorated to such an extent that remaining outdoors for more than an hour can cause immediate irritation to your respiratory system. While we can’t avoid leaving the house, it is prudent to wear mandated masks- N95/99, while stepping out.
Not Ventilating Your Home
6 Nov, 2019While outdoor air pollution is a grave issue, what’s worse is that indoor air too affects your respiratory system at a rapid scale. To combat this, it is important to ventilate your home, especially closed spaces such as the kitchen and washrooms. Make sure you have an exhaust fan installed for the kitchen and bathrooms, as this helps in air recirculation, improving the air that you breathe.
Keeping Doors And Windows Shut
6 Nov, 2019Thinking that you can avoid the pollution outdoors by maintaining bare minimum ventilation at home is bad not just for you, but also for your loved ones. It is important to open let your house breathe. However, avoid doing so during peak pollution hours, and rather open the windows and doors between 3 pm-5 pm, as the pollutant level is generally low during this period.
Brazil's Forest Fires, Delhi's Smog: A Terrible 2019 For Planet Earth
The Year Nature Hit Back
25 Nov, 20192019 has been an unforgettable year, for all the wrong reasons: From killer smog (R) to forest fires (L), drought to flood to hurricanes, the planet saw it all.
Forest Fires Brazil
25 Nov, 2019While forest fires in the Amazon during August and September are an annual occurrence, this year’s scale surpassed all estimates. Official figures show 87,000 fires in the first eight months of 2019, almost double that of 2018’s figure. Considering Amazon is the world’s green lung, this is especially tragic.
Bush Fires Australia
25 Nov, 2019Millions of acres of vegetation were burnt as bush fires raged across eastern Australia. The blaze prompted authorities to issue a “catastrophic” warning, the worst threat ever issued for Sydney, as over 100 deadly fires produced clouds of smoke seen as far away as New Zealand. (Image: AFP)
Hurricane Dorian Bahamas
25 Nov, 2019Hurricane Dorian devastated Bahamas in September, the worst natural disaster in the country’s history. With winds peaking at 185 kph, it’s estimated to have caused damage in excess of $3.5 billion. There were at least 65 deaths, while hundreds are still missing.
Glacier Meltdown Antarctica
25 Nov, 2019Glaciers along the coast of Antarctica are melting at an alarming rate as warmer waters and hotter temperatures eat away at the snow. A NASA report this year said the Antarctic ice sheet is melting nearly six times as fast as it did 40 years ago, thereby contributing to a rise in sea levels worldwide. And the really worrying trend? Things are actually getting worse, and sections are melting faster than before.(Representative image)
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