In order to mitigate the potential impact of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), screening to detect AMD risk is vital. This post looks at why eye health professionals need to cement the importance of macular pigment optical density (MPOD) screening among patients. Screening for MPOD can do everything from maximising the effectiveness of potential AMD treatment to improving a person’s quality of life in old age.
AMD is painless and symptomless when it first develops; so it is important to assess a person’s risk of developing it by screening for low MPOD. If left undetected and untreated AMD will cause significant vision loss, followed by complete vision loss. This greatly reduces a person’s quality of life – both physically and mentally. On top of this, more and more people are susceptible to it as our global population ages.
What place does early screening of AMD risk have in healthcare systems, and what benefits does it offer? Here’s why you should be implementing it in your practice:
Encourages responsibility towards eye health
A patient who is well educated about eye health will seek to protect it. If a patient understands the risk of AMD, and how this is detected, they are more likely to come for screening tests. There is also the opportunity to educate them about the fact that AMD is symptomless, so it is vital to pick up the earliest signs of AMD risk.
By educating patients on the importance of regular eye checks they are more likely to present for eye examinations. Once they reach older age, when they are more at risk of developing AMD, they will be accustomed to visiting their eye doctor.
Preserves sight into old age
Many conditions are easier to treat if they are discovered in the earliest stages, and you can manage a person’s risk of developing AMD if you screen for low MPOD regularly. Screening for MPOD with the MPS II is currently the best way to identify those at-risk of dry AMD. If you have identified low MPOD you are then able to recommend clinically proven lutein/zeaxanthin supplementation to patients with a view to increasing their MPOD over time and preserving their sight for longer.
Lower impact on mental health
Being told you are at risk of developing AMD or receiving a diagnosis, can have an enormous impact on mental health – it is estimated that one-third of UK AMD sufferers have a form of depression or anxiety.
Receiving an early warning sign for AMD risk is key to protecting mental health – if steps can be taken to prevent AMD or significantly mitigate its impact a patient is likely to better maintain their quality of life. Supplementation and other treatment is likely to work more effectively if low MPOD is detected early, which can reduce a patient’s anxiety about their prognosis. Read more about this in our related blog post – AMD and understanding patient stress.
Dealing with the increasing number of AMD cases requires a proactive approach from healthcare systems and eye health professionals each and every day. By encouraging your patients to be interested in their eye health they are more likely to present for eye examinations.
Every single eye test they take will contribute to their future, helping to protect their eye sight into older age. Quality of life is significantly affected by sight loss of any kind – making it difficult for a person to work, socialise and carry out basic tasks. Any intervention or risk assessment that can preserve sight will help to improve quality of life in old age, at a time when someone is most vulnerable to change.