Is there finally a way to manage dry macular degeneration? An innovative screening device that measures macular protein may be the key to effective prevention of the disease.
Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in Australia. It comes in wet and dry forms, with the dry form accounting for 80-90% of all cases. It occurs through oxidative damage to the light-sensitive cells (rods and cones) of the macula caused by long-term exposure to light at the blue end of the spectrum.
While the wet form can now be successfully managed with drugs like Lucentis and Eyelea, dry ARMD has no magic bullet. Evidence does show, however, that patients with the dry form of the disease can halt or slow its progression by taking supplements to build up their macular pigment.(1) But how can you prevent it?
To date, risk of developing the disease has been based on a number of key risk factors including family history, smoking habits and early visible signs of disease in your eye. Early retinal signs of the disease are virtually non-existent, and there are no symptoms. But what if a 40 second screening test could measure another key risk factor – macular pigment – and tell if you are high or low risk for this disease?
The 40 second test for ARMD
That’s exactly what’s measured by an innovative screening device called the MPS II Macular Pigment Screener. The device, which has been developed by Elektron Eye Technology, measures levels of macular pigment at the back of your eye. Macular pigment absorbs high energy blue light entering the eye. It is the body’s natural blue light filter. This pigment is concentrated around the macula. Lower levels of macular pigment indicate higher risk of disease.
A proactive approach
While we have traditionally associated ARMD with aging, recent studies have shown that macular degeneration is affecting people at a much earlier age than we previously thought, with one study showing 4% of patients aged 35-44 had signs of the disease.(2) Should we really be waiting until patients are over 40 before looking for signs of disease?
We think not, and offer all adult patients a routine MPS II to provide a baseline measurement of their macular pigment optical density (MPOD). Provided there are no visible signs of macular change, it only requires a measurement of one eye to generate this number, which will be between zero and one. The closer your MPOD is to 1, the more macular pigment you have, and the lower the risk of developing the disease. If your number is less than .75, your eye care specialist will look at associated risk factors (such as smoking and family history of ARMD) to decide if you should start a macular supplement. MPOD scores of less than .5 are in the higher risk category, and supplements can be very useful in preventing progression of the disease – or even improving it.
Where can I have my MPOD measured?
The Eye Practice has the first MP II Macular Pigment Screener in Australia and offers this test to their patients. Older versions of the technology take far longer to generate a result and are less accurate. Because at we take a proactive approach to eye health, we include a MPOD measurement for adult patients so we can establish a baseline and track their progress over time.
(1). AREDS2 Research Group. “Lutein/Zeaxanthin and Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Age-Related Macular Degeneration. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) Controlled Randomized Clinical Trial.” JAMA, published online May 5, 2013
(2). C. A. Korb et al. (2014), Prevalence of age-related macular degeneration in a large European cohort: Results from the population-based Gutenberg Health Study, Graefe’s Archive for Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology