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Air Pollution and Macular Degeneration

Colorado and the Denver Metro region has struggled with air pollution for the last few years, ranking number one in air pollution amongst major cities in the world on a Saturday afternoon in 2021. Weather patterns, fire, pollutant output from traffic and factories and other human behaviors have made air pollution more common, obstructing our views of the front range.

The particulate matter that pollutes air is too small to see with the human eye. Collectively, those particles cause haze and carry toxins. Air pollution can cause symptoms including: inflammation in the airways, headaches, reduced resistance to infections, and fatigue. New research suggests living in a city with poor air quality increases your chance of developing age-related macular degeneraton (AMD)—a leading cause of blindness.

The study, published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, found that residents of highly polluted areas were at least 8% more likely to be diagnosed with AMD than residents of less polluted areas. AMD develops when the macula, the part of the eye responsible for central vision, is damaged.

While some factors may be out of your control, there are several lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk of vision loss from AMD. These healthy habits include not smoking, eating an eye-healthy diet, and exercising regularly.

Treatments for eye diseases like wet AMD are most effective with an early diagnosis. Make sure you get regular comprehensive eye exams to lower your risk of vision loss.

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