Association of ambient air pollution with age-related macular degeneration and retinal thickness in UK Biobank

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Aim To examine the associations of air pollution with both self-reported age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and in vivo measures of retinal sublayer thicknesses. Methods We included 115 954 UK Biobank participants aged 40-69 years old in this cross-sectional study. Ambient air pollution measures included particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide (NO 2) and nitrogen oxides (NO x). Participants with self-reported ocular conditions, high refractive error ( +6 diopters) and poor spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) image were excluded. Self-reported AMD was used to identify overt disease. SD-OCT imaging derived photoreceptor sublayer thickness and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) layer thickness were used as structural biomarkers of AMD for 52 602 participants. We examined the associations of ambient air pollution with self-reported AMD and both photoreceptor sublayers and RPE layer thicknesses. Results After adjusting for covariates, people who were exposed to higher fine ambient particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter <2.5 μm (PM 2.5, per IQR increase) had higher odds of self-reported AMD (OR=1.08, p=0.036), thinner photoreceptor synaptic region (β=-0.16 μm, p=2.0 × 10-5), thicker photoreceptor inner segment layer (β=0.04 μm, p=0.001) and thinner RPE (β=-0.13 μm, p=0.002). Higher levels of PM 2.5 absorbance and NO 2 were associated with thicker photoreceptor inner and outer segment layers, and a thinner RPE layer. Higher levels of PM 10 (PM with an aerodynamic diameter <10 μm) was associated with thicker photoreceptor outer segment and thinner RPE, while higher exposure to NO x was associated with thinner photoreceptor synaptic region. Conclusion Greater exposure to PM 2.5 was associated with self-reported AMD, while PM 2.5, PM 2.5 absorbance, PM 10, NO 2 and NO x were all associated with differences in retinal layer thickness.




Chua, S. Y. L., Warwick, A., Peto, T., Balaskas, K., Moore, A. T., Reisman, C., … Patel, P. J. (2022). Association of ambient air pollution with age-related macular degeneration and retinal thickness in UK Biobank. British Journal of Ophthalmology, 106(5), 705–711.

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