Macular Degeneration Risk

Macular Degeneration is one of the leading causes of vision loss in the United States.  While our ability to treat this sight threatening disease has improved significantly over the last 20 years, in most cases we still do not have the ability to restore vision once it has been lost.  For this reason, much research and investigation has gone into ways to prevent the development and advancement of Macular Degeneration.

A very large government funded study called the “Age Related Eye Disease Study” was completed several years ago.  This multi-center controlled study found that patients who were at risk of developing Macular Degeneration (based on family history and the appearance of their eyes upon enrollment in the study) cold reduce their chance of developing the condition by 25% by taking a very basic nutritional supplement.  While not a “miracle preventative treatment”, this is strong evidence that we may be able to prevent or reduce the likelihood of developing Macular Degeneration by taking an inexpensive over the counter preparation.

Since the AREDS study was concluded, the potential benefits of supplements such as Lutein have come to light.  There is a new version of the AREDS study going on right now called AREDS II.  This study is evaluating other nutritional supplements and preventative measures.

Researchers at Florida International University and the Waterford Institute of Technology have found that the density of three pigments in the macula are predictive of the risk of developing Macular Degeneration.  Patients tend to fall into three major categories when these pigments (Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Meso-Zeaxanthin) are measured.  We call the groups “Low Density”, “Average Density” and “High Density”.  What we’ve learned is that the patients with high and average pigment density have no increased risk of developing Macular Degeneration.  Patients with low pigment density are at twice the risk of developing MD as those in the average and high groups.

There is a correlation between the density of these three pigments (referred to as the Macular Protective Pigment Density or MPPD for short) and the risk of developing Macular Degeneration.  In our office, we have technology that allows us to measure a patient’s MPPD.  This technology is called the “MacuScope”.  It uses what it called “Flicker Photometry” to measure the MPPD in a safe, non-invasive and quick test.  This test is so important that we include it in our comprehensive eye examination at no extra cost to our patients.  As part of our commitment to preventing vision loss and blindness, we will even provide MacuScope evaluations to non-patients at no cost.

Patients who are known to be at elevated risk of developing Macular Degeneration can increase their MPPD in several ways.  If they are smokers, they must stop smoking, period.  Smoking reduces the body’s ability to synthesize Meso-Zeaxanthin and transport it and Lutein and Zeaxanthin to the macula.  Reducing overall body fat and reducing fat intake can also help with synthesis and transport.  Consuming more foods high in these three pigments (green leafy vegetables, specifically spinich) can also moderately increase the MPPD.

The single best way to increase a patient’s MPPD is by direct supplementation with the three pigments responsible for the MPPD.  In our office, we recommend a supplement called “MacuHealth with LMZ3” as it is the single best source for all three of these pigments.  Six months after starting supplementation, we repeat the MacuScope exam, again at no charge to our patients, to insure that the MPPD is responding to the supplementation.

While we don’t have any way to insure that our patients don’t develop Macular Degeneration, we can offer scientifically sound advice to our patients who are at elevated risk of developing this potentially blinding disease.  If you, a friend or family member are concerned about Macular Degeneration, call the office now at (262) 752-2020 to set up an eye examination (the only way to know if you have Macular Degeneration) or at least a MacuScope evaluation to find out if you are at any elevated risk of developing Macular Degeneration.

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