Researchers of a study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology have found that greater exposure to air pollution was associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and differences in retinal layer thickness.

A total of 115,954 UK Biobank participants aged 40 to 69 were included in the study and ambient air pollution measures included particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

Researchers analysed spectral domain optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging and participants with self-reported ocular conditions, high refractive error (+/- 6D) and poor OCT images were excluded.

Photoreceptor sublayer thickness taken from OCT imaging and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) layer thickness were used as structural biomarkers of AMD for 52,602 participants.

The study revealed that people who were exposed to high fine ambient particulate matter had higher odds of self-reported AMD, thinner photoreceptor synaptic region, thicker photoreceptor inner segment layer and thinner RPE.

Higher levels of particulate matter absorbance and nitrogen dioxide were associated with thicker photoreceptor inner and outer segment layers, as well as a thinner RPE layer.

Higher levels of particular matter were associated with thicker photoreceptor outer segment and thinner RPE, while higher exposure to nitrogen oxides were associated with thinner photoreceptor synaptic region.

Authors concluded that greater exposure to particulate matter was associated with self-reported AMD while higher levels of particulate matter absorbance and all pollution measures were associated with differences in retinal layer thickness.

View the findings on the British Medical Journal website.