Every year, we make New Year’s resolutions for healthier diet and exercise! Did you know that those with serious medical conditions are more at risk for eye problems? For the past few years, we have been measuring macular pigment to assess risk for macular degeneration and as a biomarker for health.
How Macular Pigment Works
Macular pigment absorbs the harmful wavelengths of light, not allowing them to pass and impair the sensitive retinal cells. In this picture, you can see that healthy pigment absorbs the blue light wavelength (represented by the black area in the center of the image), while green light is not absorbed.
What is MPOD?
The majority of the U.S. population has unhealthy, or sub-optimal, MPOD.
Unfortunately, 78% of the general population in the U.S. has an unhealthy, or sub-optimal, macular pigment density. The density of macular pigment affects visual function, including:
Vision in an open area and how far one can see in hazy conditions
Ability to see while driving at night
It also determines a patient’s risk of developing age-related eye health issues. To support a healthy macular pigment optical density (MPOD), patients must have the proper amounts of zeaxanthin and lutein. Because the body does not make these antioxidants on its own, they must be ingested. Lutein is commonly found in leafy greens, while brightly colored vegetables like corn and peppers contain zeaxanthin. It can be difficult to get the amounts of these retinal carotenoids to support MPOD in a regular diet.
MPOD as a Biomarker
Low MPOD can indicate several other eye health issues besides an increased risk of blue light damage. MPOD can act as a biomarker for problems like age-related eye health, retinal blood vessel health, and more. John Herman, OD, FAAO, believes that testing MPOD is “a very valuable, if not critical, clinical tool for not only detecting low levels of macular pigment density, and is essential in identifying the population at risk for many different health concerns, as well as giving the clinician the ability to follow the progress of treatment plans.”
Ask about MPOD measurement at your next eye exam!