Our bodies have mechanisms that protect us from the harsh environment.
One of them is in the form of an internal sunglass in our eyes.
The central part of the retina (the light sensitive layer at the back of our eyes), is called the macula. The macula is responsible for our central vision, and also our highest level of vision to appreciate fine detail such as letters/ numbers, colour, and contrast. At the centre of the macula, is our fovea, also known as “yellow” spot due to the its pigments.
The macula is prone to damage from oxidative stress. This could be due to excessive exposure to the more energetic wavelengths of light (e.g. UV and blue light), smoking, or health conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
The macula by nature is actually rich in antioxidants, specifically lutein and zeaxanthin. This gives the macula its characteristic “yellow spot” appearance. This lutein and zeaxanthin is derived from our diet, since our bodies cannot manufacture them. The macula pigments act as a shield to absorb the energetic light and reduce its toxicity on macular tissues.
Persons with low amounts of macular pigments are more prone to degenerative diseases such as macular degeneration. The macula is a delicate part of the retina, and once damage is done, it is often irreversible. Therefore it is important to ensure that the macula is well-protected, either on its own or with the use of external protection.
There are many factors linked to macular degeneration. UV and blue light especially have been implicated in the damage of retinal cells using animal studies. Since the damage is due to cumulative exposure, it is important to provide protection as early as possible.
Why don’t we just block out all the UV and blue light that we get exposed to? We do need some UV for the production of vitamin D by our skin, for us to absorb calcium from our diet. We also need some blue light for the regulation of melatonin (sleep and mood hormone) in our brain. The key to sensible protection is choosing the right product that filters out the harmful spectrum of light and retain those which are beneficial.
So how do we proactively protect the macula?
Firstly, we can reduce exposure of UV and blue light to the eyes. That can be achieved by wearing suitable UV and blue light protective filters, which can be added as special coatings on spectacle lenses.
Next, is to ensure that our macular’s natural defence is optimal. Especially with smokers, diabetics, elderly and those who had cataract surgery. These groups of people are at a higher risk of macular degeneration due to accumulated exposure to ageing factors, or they have had their natural lens removed which used to form part of the eye’s natural UV and blue light blocker.
Through many years of research, on thousands of people, there is a formula for eye supplements known as the AREDS2 formula. These supplements has been found to reduce the risk of macula degeneration by improving the eye’s protective capabilities.
Now there is a method available to test if your macula pigment density. This is important to people of all ages, because young people can be lacking in macula pigments due to their modern diets, and for the older generation because of their long-term exposure to harmful agents. It is especially important for those with low macula pigments to start taking supplements that contain the required dose of lutein, zeaxanthin and other antioxidants that are needed to prevent macula degeneration.
Call to make an appointment today to check your macula health. Protection and prevention are certainly better than cure. Especially when most macula degenerations are incurable.