Know your natural defences

Just as someone with fair skin uses a high factor sun cream to avoid sunburn, a person with low levels of macular pigments should take extra care to protect their eyes from damaging blue light.

Is blue light really damaging?

While many people talk about the harmful effects of blue light from screens and mobile devices, the most dangerous source of blue light is the sun.

Just like UV light, blue light sits at the dangerous end of the light spectrum.

UV light is blocked by the cornea and lens, but blue light penetrates all the way through to the retina.

Damaging light and your eyes

While your skin gets a new layer of cells every five days, the cells in your retina are with you for life.

Damage accumulates in your retina, leading to the formation of deposits (drusen), which can be one of the earliest symptoms of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – a leading cause of blindness.

How do macular pigments help?

Macular pigment are carotenoids provided by a healthy diet of colourful fruits and vegetables. Alternatively this can be supplemented with Lutein and Zeaxanthin. They absorb harmful blue light, reducing cell damage in the eye.

By absorbing blue light, macular pigments also help improve vision by reducing glare and improving contrast sensitivity.

As well as absorbing the light itself, macular pigments also act as antioxidants, neutralising free radicals before they damage molecules in the retina.

How well protected are you? 

Genetics and lifestyle factors affect your level of macular pigments. This means that everyone's natural defences are unique.

As an eye care professional, you can now assess your patients' natural defences and identify those who need to take extra precautions to protect their long-term eye health.

Advise your patients to take action. Wearing sunglasses and specs with blue-light-blocking lenses can reduce their exposure to harmful light. Quitting smoking and improving diet can help them maintain their eye's natural defences. Empower your patients to take actions such as these, and you will be helping them to improve their vision and reduce their risk of diseases such as AMD.