Can too much Sunlight Contribute to Macular Degeneration?

Too much sunlight can increase the potential for Macular Degeneration.

As spring and summer months approach many of us will spend more time in the sun. Most of us are mindful of the risks of skin related diseases however are we aware of the risks that sunlight has on our vision?  UV exposure is one of the major risk factors that cause macular degeneration. It’s estimated that 10% of people between 66 and 74 show some findings of macular degeneration and that percentage rises to 30% as the population ages past 75.

Sometimes known as “Age-Related Macular Degeneration,” macular degeneration is abbreviated as AMD. This is because the disease usually occurs later in life, and because the risk for developing macular degeneration increases with age.

Studies have shown macular degeneration probably develops due to a combination of factors, a leading one being the destruction of the macular pigment by blue light or sunlight.

Within the past few years, research has provided eye care professionals with some exciting information. Studies have shown that:

1. Virtually all people who suffer from macular degeneration display a thinning of the macular pigment.

2. People who have a dense macular pigment are very unlikely to have or develop macular degeneration.

These two facts, considered together, have led scientists to believe that the key to preventing and treating macular degeneration lies in maintaining the health of the macular pigment.

The Macular Pigment

The macula is an area in the centre of the retina of the human eye, in front of the fovea. The fovea is the area of the eye that contains the highest concentration of photoreceptors. It is responsible for sending signals re: detailed central vision, the type of vision that allows us to read, sew, drive a car, and even to recognize faces.

Within the macula is a substance called the macular pigment. This substance is now thought to be essential in protecting the sensitive cells of the fovea from light damage.

The macular pigment is made up of three carotenoids: lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin. The third of these xanthophylls, meso-zeaxanthin, has only recently been identified. Unlike the first two, meso-zeaxanthin is not found in food, and cannot be obtained through diet; it’s a product of a process within the eye involving lutein.

The macular pigment protects the eye in two ways:

1. By neutralizing harmful free radicals, molecules that occur from processes such as oxygen metabolism, or come from outside sources such as pollution and

2. By filtering UV light so that blue light will not damage the sensitive cells of the fovea.

Prevention And Treatment

Now that these causes and mechanisms have been revealed, new ways of preventing and treating the disease are becoming evident. Obviously, protecting eyes from blue light is essential. Sunglasses with orange or red-orange lenses that filter 100% of UV rays should be worn regularly.

And keeping a high level of antioxidants in the body can keep the macular pigment fit to combat free radicals. This can be achieved through a combination of diet and supplementation.

For those who are already showing signs of macular degeneration, supplementing with the three carotenoids of the pigment has been shown to restore pigment density and reverse symptoms of the disease. The most effective formulation contains meso-zeaxanthin as well as lutein and zeaxanthin.

Do you do anything to prepare yourself you sun exposure?



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