Air Pollution from Vehicle Exhaust Doubles the Risk for Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) National Eye Institute (NEI)

A study by Taiwanese researchers published August 19, 2019 in the Journal of Investigative Medicine showed that air pollution from vehicle exhaust almost doubles the risk for developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) of the eyes.

Method of the Study

The researchers analyzed national health insurance and air quality information from 1998 to 2010. They wanted to see if there was a connection between long-term exposure to pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO?) and carbon monoxide (CO) with a higher risk for developing AMD.

Participants in the study were 38,819 seniors age 50 and older who lived in high (30%) or moderate (32.5%) urban areas.

Long-term Air Pollution Linked to Increased Risk for Chronic Diseases

Long-term air pollution has been also linked to an increased risk for chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, lung diseases, chronic kidney disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. See our blog post from July 13, 2018 to read more about air pollution and chronic and neurodegenerative diseases.


During the follow up period, 1442 seniors developed AMD. Results were as follows:

  • Those who had the highest level of exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO?) had nearly double (91%) the risk to develop AMD compared to those who were exposed to the lowest levels of NO?
  • Those who had the highest exposure to carbon monoxide (CO) were 84% more likely to develop AMD than those exposed to the lowest level.

Observational Study

This was an observational study and the authors emphasize that they did not examine other factors like smoking, genetics and inflammation. However, this is the first study to show a significant association between exposure to higher levels of CO and NO? with the development of AMD.

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), AMD is a common eye condition and a leading cause of vision loss among seniors age 50 and older. AMD causes damage to the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina. This is the part of the eye needed for sharp, central vision, so that we can see things that are straight ahead.

AMD May Begin with a Blurred Area near the Center of Vision

In some people, AMD advances so slowly that vision loss does not occur for a long time. In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in one or both eyes. AMD may begin with a common symptom that is a blurred area near the center of vision. Over time, this blurred area may grow bigger or blank spots may form in central vision. Things may not appear to be as bright as they once were.
While AMD does not lead to complete blindness, the loss of central vision in AMD can interfere with simple everyday activities, such as reading, driving, writing, cooking, doing close work, the ability to see faces and to fix things around the house.

The Macula

The macula of the eye contains millions of light-sensing cells that provide sharp, central vision. The macula is the most sensitive part of the retina, which is located at the back of the eye. The retina changes light into electrical signals and then sends these electrical signals through the optic nerve to the brain. In the brain these electrical signals are translated into the images we see. A damaged macula can cause the center of your field of view to appear blurry, distorted, or dark.

Look for a Rehab in a Place that has a Good Clean Air Rating

If you or your loved one are in need of short or long-term rehabilitation and skilled nursing care you should try to find a facility located in an area that has a high rating for clean air like the Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation. Royal Suites is a beautiful rehab and skilled nursing care facility surrounded by eight acres of woods and landscaped gardens in Galloway Township, New Jersey. Galloway Township has been given a good clean air rating of 97.18% for New Jersey.


We only have two eyes and none of us want to lose vision as we age. It certainly pays to avoid being stuck in heavy traffic.

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