Why Is It Important To Have Your Macular Pigment Optical Density Test?

 In Eye Care

Macular Degeneration is a growing concern as the population ages. Decreased macular pigment optical density may be a leading risk factor in the development of macular degeneration.

Today’s internet and smartphone culture result in even more eye stress as people spend hours staring at televisions, monitors, and mobile phone screens. These activities may also contribute to the development of macular degeneration and a decrease in macular pigment optical density (MPOD).

A comprehensive eye exam that includes a macular pigment optical density test is essential to a lifetime of healthy vision. In this post, we will provide an overview of MPOD, macular pigment optical density tests and their importance.

What Is Macular Pigment Optical Density And Why Is It Important?

Macular Pigment Density (MPOD) is a measure of the density of Macular Pigment (MP) in the center of the retina. MP protects your eyes by absorbing damaging blue light. It functions a little like the eye’s own internal “sunglasses” and the denser the MP the more protective.

Two carotenoids called zeaxanthin and lutein comprise your macular pigment. Healthy macular pigment enables clear 20-20 vision and vivid color vision. When macular pigment density decreases, vision is affected in the following ways:

  • Decreased visual acuity resulting in less clear vision perception
  • Less contrast sensitivity so visual contrast is less pronounced
  • Slower glare recovery after viewing bright lights
  • Changes in light sensitivity

Low or decreased MPOD is a risk factor for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD causes gradual and often complete vision loss.

A thorough eye exam including a macular pigment optical density test is essential to eye health and longevity. Early diagnosis results in a higher chance of effective treatment for AMD and other eye health problems.

How Blue Light Affects The Eyes

As mentioned, macular pigment serves as natural sunglasses as it absorbs high-energy blue light.

Although sunlight looks white, it is made from a range of colors including red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet light. The rays on the bluer end of the spectrum have shorter wavelengths and more energy than the rays on the red end.

Sunlight is the biggest source of blue light exposure. However, due to the modern lifestyle eyes get additional blue light exposure from:

  • LED Flat screen televisions
  • Computer monitors, phones, and tablet screens
  • Internal lighting including Fluorescent, LED, and Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs

Although sunlight is the most significant source, mobile devices and monitors are a special concern due to the close proximity to the eyes and the length of time people spend looking at them each day. It is a special concern for children since children absorb more blue light from exposure to LED TVs and monitors than adults according to a recent study.

While blue light may damage the eyes over time, it is also healthy to the body in other ways. Blue light helps regulate the body’s natural sleeping and waking rhythms. However, the modern plugged-in lifestyle results in people looking at blue light emitting devices in the evening. Since blue-light is associated with sunlight, it may contribute to insomnia and disturbed sleep rhythms. Lack of sleep also may contribute to eye related concerns such as dry eye. So, limiting excessive blue light exposure benefits the eyes and the body in various ways.

What Is Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration is an eye disease that impacts the center of the visual field. Usually, it is associated with age and is most common in people over 60-years-old. Since Macular Degeneration affects central vision it hinders common activities including watching television, reading, driving and recognizing people’s faces. These negative effects hinder the patient’s ability to work, stay active and enjoy life. Treatment and therapy can help preserve the patient’s lifestyle.

While sometimes younger people suffer from macular degeneration, it is most commonly age-related. There are two types Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD):

  • Dry AMD – this is most common and accounts for 90% of AMD. Dry AMD is more gradual and results in damage to the retinal layers that are visible. It results in gradual vision loss and sometimes even more serious macular tissue atrophy.
  • Wet AMD – this affects 10% of AMD cases. Sometimes dry AMD progresses to Wet AMD. New blood vessels growth occurs under the retina. These vessels are fragile. Fluid or blood leakage causes vision loss and sometimes scarring.

Some AMD Risk factors may include:

  • Smoking
  • Family history and possibly genetics
  • Ethnicity
  • Exposure to oxidative stress
  • Obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels
  • A diet including high levels of saturated fat
  • Gender, females are more prone

How & Why Your Optometrist Measures Macular Pigment Optical Density

Unfortunately, macular degeneration doesn’t have a known cure. However, with early diagnosis, your eye care professional can create a treatment plan that may delay or lessen AMD’s progression. Early proactive treatment is the key to preserving eyesight.

In addition, if the AMD progresses an optometrist can prescribe tools that help maintain quality of life as the patient may continue to read, watch TV and enjoy favorite hobbies. However, diagnosis and a complete eye exam are essential before exploring treatment options.

Bonus: Tips To Maintain Macular Pigment Optical Density

  • Manage screen time and take frequent breaks from staring at monitors, television sets, and smartphone or tablet screens.
  • Wear sunglasses outside and consider wearing blue light-shielding computer glasses during screen time.
  • Eat a healthy diet including foods rich in zeaxanthin and lutein including green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach.
  • Eat a diet rich in antioxidants including vitamins A, C, and E. While supplements are not a replacement for good nutrition, some people like the extra assurance they are consuming key nutrients.

AMD grows more common as people live longer. A healthy lifestyle and annual eye exams are the best defense against AMD. With macular degeneration, like most diseases, early diagnosis is the key to effective treatment and prolonging quality of life.

Schedule an appointment with your optometrist for an annual exam including a macular pigment optical density test. Piedmont EyeCare Associates offers up-to-date diagnostic and treatment services for Charlotte residents. If you need an eye doctor Charlotte residents trusted their vision to Piedmont EyeCare Associates since 2004.

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