Implementing strategies to reduce ambient air pollution exposure may help mitigate the burden of AMD on public health, given the positive association between certain air pollutants and disease risk. Photo: Getty Images.

The impact of ambient air pollution on age-related macular degeneration (AMD) has been a topic of growing interest. Recent studies have suggested that air pollution, particularly fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and ozone (O3), may be associated with an increased risk of AMD. To help clarify this relationship, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of relevant studies to analyze the pooled odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals. Their findings revealed a significant positive association—but not a causal relationship—between PM2.5, NO2 and O3 exposure and the risk of AMD.

Eight relevant studies were included in the analysis, all published between 2000 and 2024 on PubMed, EMBASE or Web of Science databases. The pooled odds ratios for the effect of PM2.5, NO2 and O3 on AMD were 1.16, 1.17 and 1.06, respectively, indicating that all three air pollutants increased the risk of AMD.

The researchers explained in their paper on the study, published in BMC Ophthalmology, that numerous potential mechanisms could explain these associations. “As chemical components of air pollution, CO, NO2, O3, SO2, and PM2.5 share a common biological pathway known to induce oxidative stress and inflammation, which are recognized as AMD risk factors,” they wrote. “Moreover, animal studies have demonstrated that PM2.5 can impair microvascular function. In the eye, choroidal microcirculation deterioration plays a critical role in AMD.” The authors suggest, “Given that AMD is a neurodegenerative disease, these studies further justify the plausibility of a correlation between AMD and air pollution.”

These results highlight the importance of reducing ambient air pollution as a preventive measure for AMD and other ocular diseases. Further research is needed to elucidate the underlying mechanisms and explore additional air pollutants that may contribute to the development and progression of AMD.

Wu J, Zhang Y, Xu X. Association between ambient air pollution and age‑related macular degeneration: a meta‑analysis. BMC Ophthalmol. 2024;24:202.