What is Macular Pigment Optical Density (MPOD)?

Macular Pigment Optical Density is a measure of the density of the macular pigment. The density varies among individuals and may change with time. Since high MPOD is associated with healthy eyes, it is an important measure of vision health. Conversely, Low MPOD is a leading risk factor in Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

Macular pigment protects your eyes from the harmful blue light. It is a little yellow pigment spot located in the middle of the retina. It is comprised of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. The Macular pigment acts as your eye’s natural sunglasses.

Why should you have your MPOD measured?

The most important reason to measure MPOD is because low macular pigment is a leading risk factor for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Optometrists measure Macular Pigment Optical Density to gauge your risk of developing AMD.

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) destroys central vision and is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over age 55. Millions of Americans suffer AMD each year. There is currently no cure for AMD and its effects are irreversible. Fortunately, there are risks that can be mitigated in fighting the disease.

There are two forms of Macular Degeneration known as Wet Exudative Macular Degeneration and Dry macular degeneration. Dry macular degeneration accounts for around 90% of all cases. Dry Macular Degeneration is caused by atrophy and studies associate it with lower Macular Pigment Optical Density.

Macular Pigment Optical Density is important for a couple reasons:

  1. Macular pigment acts like, “internal sunglasses” to protect your eye’s photoreceptors from harmful blue light. It protects the retina from oxidative stress. A good analogy to macular pigment is sunscreen that protects the skin from harmful rays.
  2. Macular pigment enhances vision by improving visual acuity, improving light sensitivity, and helping eyes recover from glare.

KEY AMD RISK FACTORS

Non-modifiable risk factors include:

  • Age is a leading factor as risk increases among people aged 65 and older.
  • Family history
  • Light colored skin and eyes
  • Female gender

Unfortunately, no one can control their age and genetics. However, other key risk factors involve lifestyle choices.

Modifiable risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Poor diet
  • Low macular pigment
  • High body mass index (BMI)

Healthy Lifestyle As Protect Against Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Your macular pigment is made thicker or “restored” by replenishing the natural carotenoids, Zeaxanthin and Lutein. Dietary sources of Lutein and Zeaxanthin include dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale and greens.

Supplements including Lutein and Zeaxanthin can improve your MPOD score and reduce your risk for AMD. Since the human body doesn’t synthesize Zeaxanthin and Lutein, dietary sources are essential for healthy eyes.

In addition to consuming foods or supplements rich in Zeaxanthin and Lutein, other ways to minimize your risk of AMD include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight and BMI
  • Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke
  • Exercise and lead an active lifestyle
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Have regular eye exams

As the population’s lifespan increase so does the prevalence of AMD. A healthy lifestyle and annual eye exams are the best defense against AMD. Schedule an appointment with your ophthalmologist for an annual exam including measurement of Macular Pigment Optical Density. Be sure to discuss any genetic and lifestyle risk factors and follow any recommendations to help keep your eyes healthy.