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Is Air Pollution Putting Your Vision at Risk?
New research suggests link between poor air quality and glaucoma

SAN DIEGO, CALIF (February 18, 2020) -- According to a recent study, there’s yet another reason why air pollution should be considered a public health priority: poor quality air may be contributing to increased incidences of glaucoma, a debilitating eye condition that can led to blindness.

“This is a concern for anyone living in Greater San Diego, which is rated as having the sixth worst ozone pollution in the U.S.,” says Sandy T. Feldman, Medical Director of Clearview Eye & Laser Medical Center in San Diego. “But it’s a nationwide problem. According to the latest American Lung Association air quality report, more than 40 percent of Americans live in areas with unhealthy air quality. That’s bad news for our health, including the health of our eyes.”

Scientists believe that air pollution may be contributing to glaucoma by constricting blood vessels in the eye. Another possibility is that particulates in the air may have a direct toxic effect that damages the nervous system and contributes to inflammation.

The study was undertaken in the UK, which has relatively low air pollution compared to elsewhere in the world, so the risk of glaucoma may be even higher in smoggier areas. Indoor air pollution and workplace exposure were not included in the study’s analysis, meaning that the cumulative adverse impact on the eyes may be even more significant.

“More research needs to be done to determine whether air pollution does indeed cause glaucoma,” says Dr. Feldman. “In the meantime, we can all implement some simple strategies to help reduce our exposure to air pollution.”

Dr. Feldman’s suggestions include:

  • Wear a well-fitting face mask to block out particulates
  • Use bike paths instead of cycling along city streets
  • Use only nontoxic “green” cleaning products
  • Get some houseplants for your home and workplace
  • Purchase a home air filter
  • Avoid being outdoors on hot days, when ozone levels are highest

According to the American Lung Association’s air quality report, San Diego has seen a dramatic rise in dangerous ozone pollution. Ozone is the main ingredient of smog, created when pollutants from trucks, cars, factories and farms chemically react with sunlight. When inhaled, it can cause inflammation, shortness of breath, coughing, asthma attacks and a shorter life span.

“Experts say that our air quality is getting worse, in part, because of wildfires and weather patterns fueled by climate change,” says Dr. Feldman. “All the more reason to take steps to significantly reduce pollution on both a local and a global scale.”

About Sandy T. Feldman, MD
Sandy T. Feldman MD, Medical Director of Clearview Eye & Laser Medical Center, is a world-renowned corneal expert who has successfully performed more than 20,000 refractive procedures. Clearview has been voted Best LASIK center by the San Diego Union Tribune (five times) and by CityBeat Magazine (three times). Dr. Feldman’s many awards include Top Doc San Diego; the Goldline Award, an honor granted to the top 10 laser eye care specialists in the U.S.; and the Silver Elite RealSelf Award. She has also been profiled in publications such as Forbes and Newsweek and makes frequent appearances as an expert commentator on TV talk shows and news programs. Dr. Feldman is a fellow of the prestigious American College of Ophthalmic Surgeons, as well as a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. More details at clearvieweyes.com.

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