Vision Loss Linked To Pollution, Say Experts

As per a UK biobank study, air pollution is associated with an increased risk of progressive and irreversible sight loss, known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The aftermath of the Diwali celebrations, vehicular and industrial emissions along with the weather conditions has taken its toll on the air quality in Delhi. The past few weeks have witnessed an alarming spike in air pollution levels in Delhi and other parts of the National Capital Region (NCR). An annual phenomenon, the rise in pollution levels is a result of varying factors – from stubble burning and vehicular pollution to bursting of crackers during Diwali and even climatic changes. This seasonal deterioration of air quality in NCR can cause retinal issues and aggravate loss of vision.

As per a UK biobank study, air pollution is associated with an increased risk of progressive and irreversible sight loss, known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).4 With an average AQI of 445 which marks the severe levels of air pollution, the number of families that sought medical help due to pollution-related ailments doubled from 22% to 44% within a week in the past month, as per a recent study undertaken by Local Circles.

Effects of air pollution on the eyes

Severe AQI has a damaging effect on eye health and vision with long-term exposure to polluted air causing sore eyes, blurred vision, watering, burning sensations, dry eye syndrome, and even glaucoma. People exposed to nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide —two common air pollutants — lead to a high risk of developing AMD. One of the major reasons that people develop chronic retinal ailments like AMD is the extremely high levels of air pollution and deteriorating air quality.  The tiny cells present in the macula of the eye are extremely vulnerable to particulate matter2. Long term exposure of eyes to polluted air with a high density of particulate matter increases the incidence of AMD in middle-aged and older people. Hence it is extremely necessary to protect one’s eyes from polluted air to prevent the development or worsening of AMD2.

“Disruption of protective atmospheric UV layer increases the risk of AMD and visual loss. Research shows that higher fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exposure was linked to a higher risk of irreparable vision loss, while other pollutants, except coarse particulate matter, can cause changes to the retinal structure. Therefore, not only it is important to undertake the right treatment for delaying the onset of AMD, but also to take preventive measures,” says Dr. Mahipal Sachdev, Medical Director & Chairman, Centre for Sight Group of Eye Hospitals, New Delhi

Treating & Managing Eye Diseases

  • Preventive eye care is the first line of defense as many eye ailments do not show any signs or symptoms. Early detection is vital to prevent vision loss and recognizing its symptoms and undergoing regular screening can be key to this.
  • Awareness about ailments and symptoms can help in seeking timely medical help. Once an eye ailment is diagnosed, regular follow-up visits to an ophthalmologist are important to arrest further degeneration.
  • Strictly adhering to prescribed treatments and recommended lifestyle modifications will help individuals keep their eye diseases in check, so they can benefit from improved outcomes.

Protect your vision

While little can be done to control the pollution levels, it is important to protect one’s eyes and maintain good retinal hygiene to keep eye disorders at bay. Here are some ways in which this can be done holistically:

  • Wear sunglasses when outdoors.
  • Wash hands often and try not to rub your eyes.
  • Remain hydrated as it helps tear formation.
  • Use eye drops to lubricate your eyes.
  • A healthy diet rich in Omega 3 fatty acid.
  • Avoid using contact lenses and if necessary, opt for disposable ones.

With no signs of the pollution being brought under control during the winter months, people need to be more aware of the harmful effects of air pollution and ways to protect their overall health.


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