The importance of measuring macular pigment optical density

What is macular pigment optical density and why should eye care professionals be aware of it? Understanding MPOD is key to mitigating against the rise of AMD sufferers across the world and to helping preserve sight into old age.

What is MPOD?

Macular Pigment Optical Density, or MPOD, measures the density of macular pigment. Macular pigment (or ‘MP’), located in the centre of the retina, performs a critical role in protecting the macula from blue light damage. MP is composed of zeaxanthin and lutein, two carotenoids which maintain its function.

Why is it important?

Macular pigment is often thought of as the body’s natural blue light filter, as it absorbs harmful blue light which then protects photoreceptors in the macula from damage. It absorbs high-energy blue light, which is emitted around 400-500nm with a peak absorption of 460nm.

Located in the centre of the retina, the macula allows for clear and detailed ’20-20′ vision and the best colour vision too. The macula gives us:

  • Visual acuity: ability to see clearly
  • Contrast sensitivity: ability to differentiate objects from their background
  • Light sensitivity: our natural reaction to bright light exposure
  • Glare recovery: from temporary blindness from intense lighting.

The macula is central to our sight, so it is important to understand MPOD and how to measure it. Low MPOD is a significant but modifiable risk factor for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). A low MPOD is a major risk factor for age-related macular degeneration, which causes gradual and total vision loss if allowed to develop or left untreated. Therefore, identifying and monitoring MPOD is critical to enabling a proactive and preventative approach to AMD.

Macular Pigment
Image from Zeavision / Eye Promise

How is MPOD measured?

The key to MPOD testing is providing accurate results which aren’t at the expense of the patient’s time or comfort. AMD is a major burden on healthcare systems and was responsible for $255bn of direct healthcare costs globally in 2010. This is set to increase along with the life expectancy of our growing global population.

The MPS II can address this burden, providing a proactive approach to identifying AMD risk from low MPOD. Reliable and affordable, the MPS II can screen each eye in 90 seconds to provide accurate and immediate results for an eye care professional to analyse.

The social and business case for MPOD can be outlined by taking a three-stage approach:

  • Detect: screen to detect low MPOD and associated risk of AMD
  • Manage: educate patient on relevant lifestyle changes and lutein/zeaxanthin supplementation
  • Monitor: undertake repeat screenings to determine change in MPOD levels

Using an MPS II to to detect and manage MPOD in this way provides value both to patients at risk of AMD and eye care professionals looking to diversify their services in a competitive marketplace.

Increasing MPOD and preventing AMD

It is estimated that there will be 196 million AMD sufferers by 2020, which makes identifying low MPOD levels critical. A proactive approach to screening will help those to make vital changes to increase their MPOD levels and prevent or delay the onset of AMD.

As mentioned before, macular pigment is made from zeaxanthin and lutein (L/Z) and these two carotenoids are key to protecting our eyes. They allow the macula to function as our ‘internal sunglasses’ – the denser the macular pigment, the more blue light is blocked.

A large body of clinical research suggests that the antioxidant properties of L/Z are key to maintaining visual acuity and protecting against AMD. L/Z are found in foods like spinach, kale and other leafy green vegetables, but only in small doses. If a person is found to have low MPOD it is more beneficial to provide them with high dose L/Z supplementation, which has shown to increase macular pigment over time. This should also be accompanied by an improved diet, smoking cessation and exercise if necessary.

The MPS II plays a key role in this preventative approach. A person with low MPOD levels can be put on a supplementation plan, the success of which can be monitored using the clinically validated MPS II. Follow-up screenings can measure increases in MPOD levels, and therefore regularly assess a person’s risk of developing AMD.

Raising awareness of MPOD screening

We have the tools and the knowledge to detect low MPOD but awareness is essential to mitigate against the risk of patients developing AMD. Patients should be made aware of the importance of regular eye screenings and be given an understanding of the risk factors for AMD.

Low MPOD is a major risk factor for AMD along with poor diet, smoking, lack of exercise as well as family history. Share our patient awareness leaflet in your practice and display our poster to contribute to the cause.

Learn more about the MPS II and how it can help enable health benefits to your patients and add value to your business.