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 high-energy 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 is one of the early signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – a leading cause of blindness.

How do macular pigments help?

Macular pigments (lutein and zeaxanthin) are carotenoids provided by a healthy diet of colourful fruits and vegetables. Patients can boost their macular pigment levels by improving their diet or by taking supplements.

Macular pigments absorb blue light, improving patient's contrast sensitivity and reducing glare.

As well as absorbing harmful light, macular pigments act as antioxidants, neutralising free radicals to reduce cell damage 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 filtering 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.