Picture your eyes as a window to the outside world. By looking out, you can see what’s going on in the world around you. But by looking in, your Optometrist can see how you’re living and how your overall health is holding up.

Inside the back of the eye, on the retina, is the only place we can see your blood vessels without cutting you open, so we can tell a lot about your overall health. These are the same blood vessels that are bringing blood everywhere in your body as well as to and from your heart – but the vessels in your eyes are visible.

Now researchers are studying changes to these retinal vessels that may occur from air pollution.

By using digital photos of the retina, researchers have found that otherwise healthy people who are exposed to high levels of air pollution tend to have narrower retinal arteries, which is an indication for a higher risk of heart disease.

This is the first time a relationship between air pollution and the tiny blood vessels in your retina has been examined.  The findings indicate that patients with short-term exposures to small amounts of pollution had a similar blood vessel appearance to someone three years older. The vessels in patients with long-term exposures to high pollution resembled those of a person seven years older.

Sara Adar, a research assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health said:

such a change would translate to a 3 percent increase in heart disease for a woman living with high levels of air pollution as compared to a woman in a cleaner area.

Another exam, which is currently underway in these same people, will allow us to see if we can find changes in these vessel diameters over time as a function of air pollution. If we can, that will give us even more evidence that air pollution causes this vessel narrowing

This information is brought to you by Clarin Eye Care Center. Please call or contact our office for more information.

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