What are the Risk Factors for Macular Degeneration?

retina of the eye

Last week we looked at what Macular Degeneration is and the symptoms usually experienced. One of the main questions we are asked by our patients at Envision Optical is “ Am I at risk of macular degeneration?” The are several risk factors for AMD including:

  • age>50 yrs
  • Smoking; you are almost three times more likely to develop AMD if you smoke.
  • Being Overweight
  • The risk is greater with a family history
  • Cardiovascular disease or hypertension
  • A history of significant exposure to UV eg always worked outdoors
  • Women are at a greater risk than men.
  • Low Macular Pigment Density

The 3 main modifiable risk factors are diet, sun exposure and smoking. Get these right and you are doing everything in your power to reduce your risk. At Envision Optical we have a unique technology that lets us identify patients at higher risk due to depleted macular pigment. Patients with low macular pigment density can be up to 65% more likely to develop AMD later in life.

THE ROLE OF MACULAR PIGMENT IN PROTECTION AND PREVENTION

location of the macular pigment on the retina

Macular pigments and the protection they provide in the eye have often been compared to “internal sunglasses.” The macular pigments play an important role in protecting the rods and cones from damaging light, and they are also essential to healthy vision. Thick, dense internal sunglasses block the harmful blue light part of the light spectrum that damages our eyes across our lifetime. Macular pigment is made up of two carotenoids: Zeaxanthin and Lutein, which are photo-protectants and antioxidants. An apple provides a great example of how antioxidants provide protection. The skin of the apple protects the inside until it is sliced open and exposed to oxygen. When this occurs, the inside turns brown via a process known as oxidation. A similar process occurs in our eyes over time as we age. The body cannot synthesize or create dietary Zeaxanthin or Lutein, so they must be obtained through the diet.

Lutein is found in many dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, collard greens, or kale and is relatively easy to obtain through the diet. Zeaxanthin is far more scarce in the average daily diet, requiring one to consume a high amount of corn, red /orange peppers, goji berries, or other brightly coloured fruits and vegetables to obtain the amount necessary to establish or maintain healthy macular pigment density. Based upon the difficulty to consume an adequate quantity of dietary Zeaxanthin via food sources, it is often reasonable to take supplements that contain Zeaxanthin and Lutein to ensure we receive an adequate level of protection.

kale leaves on envision optical eye health blog - gold coast optometrists

Measuring Macular Pigment Density

The revolutionary new MPOD device is able to give an accurate and reliable measurement of the amount of macular pigment present in an individual’s macula by measuring the Macular Optical Pigment Density (MPOD) This easy to understand test is able to measure MPOD in about 5 minutes. The results will give a numerical value to MPOD, which then indicates whether the individual patient needs to take steps to optimise their macular health.

MPS-II Macular Pigment Optical Density Instrument at Envision Optical Gold Coast Optometrists

STEPS to Optimise Macular Health

  1. Protect the eyes from Blue Light by utilising Blur light blocking Multicoat lens technology on your clear lenses
  2. Protect the eyes from damaging blue light by always wearing quality sunglasses when outdoors. We recommend Maui Jim as having the finest protective lenses available
  3. Increase your macular pigment levels through a monitored program of dietary changes and supplementation with a quality macular supplement. We currently recommend MD Eyes as the best available macular health supplement on the market. MD Eyes is to be taken once daily on an ongoing basis.
  4. Review macular pigment density levels at 6 mths

How do we assess macular degeneration?

At Envision Optical our optometrists always perform a thorough examination of the retina and macula during a routine comprehensive vision and eye health examination. Blurred vision will prompt careful examination as to the cause. Examination of the macula will reveal signs of change and these are recorded with Digital Retinal Photography, to allow future comparison. We then perform OCT scanning of the macula to check for fluid swelling and to measure macular thickness to enable ongoing monitoring of degeneration. Measurement of central visual fields will also be performed to carefully evaluate the extent of any vision loss. If you have any of the risk factors you should ensure you have a comprehensive eye exam every year at minimum. To truly get a deeper understanding of your risk of macular degeneration, book for an MPOD assessment at one of our 4 Gold Coast and Tweed locations at Burleigh Heads, Burleigh Waters, Nerang or Tweed Heads South. You have the power to improve the odds in your favour.











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