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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: CAROTENOIDS AND HEALTHY AGING Title: Macular pigment optical density is related to serum lutein in retinitis pigmentosa

Authors
item Sandberg, Michael - MASS EYE & EAR INFIRMARY
item Johnson, Elizabeth
item Berson, Eliot - MASS EYE & EAR INFIRMARY

Submitted to: Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: September 10, 2009
Publication Date: February 1, 2010
Citation: Sandberg, M.A., Johnson, E., Berson, E.L. 2010. Macular pigment optical density is related to serum lutein in retinitis pigmentosa. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science. 51(2):1086-1091.

Interpretive Summary: Lutein (a plant pigment common to the U.S. diet) is thought to be important in eye health. Lutein in the macular portion of the retina of the eye is known as macular pigment (MP). High levels of MP are related to decreased risk of age-related eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Patients with cystoid macular edema (CME) frequently have a history or cataract surgery or certain types of macular degeneration. The purpose of this study was to determine whether MP is related to the amount of CME in patients with retinitis pigmentosa. We measured MP and retinal thickness using non invasive measures in one eye of each of 177 patients with typical forms of retinitis pigmentosa (ages 18 to 68 years). Thirty-seven (21%) of these patients had CME in their study eye. MP was higher in patients with brown irides than in patients with lighter irides and varied directly with amount of lutein in the blood. MP was related to retinal thickness. In eyes mostly without CME, MP sharply decreased for decreasing retinal thickness (a measure of photoreceptor loss). In eyes mostly with CME, MP gradually decreased for increasing retinal thickness (a measure of edema). We conclude that MP is negatively related to the amount of photoreceptor (nerve cells responsible for vision) loss and to the degree of CME, the former effect outweighing the latter effect. MP is also related to iris color and to blood levels lutein in these patients. Lutein may be important in maintaining photoreceptors as well as preventing CME.

Technical Abstract: Purpose: To determine whether macular pigment optical density (MPOD) is related to the degree of cystoid macular edema (CME) in patients with retinitis pigmentosa. Methods: We measured MPOD with heterochromatic flicker photometry and central foveal retinal thickness with optical coherence tomography (OCT) in one eye of each of 177 patients with typical forms of retinitis pigmentosa (ages 18 to 68 years). Thirty-seven (21%) of these patients had CME by OCT in their study eye. We performed a multiple regression analysis with MPOD as the dependent variable and age, gender, iris color, quartile of serum lutein or quartile of serum zeaxanthin, and a spline function of central foveal retinal thickness as the independent variables. Results: MPOD was higher in patients with brown irides than in patients with lighter irides (p = 0.009) and varied directly with quartile of serum lutein (p = 0.0042). MPOD was nonmonotonically related to central foveal retinal thickness (p < 0.0001): from its peak at a thickness of 227 micrometer, MPOD sharply decreased for decreasing retinal thickness, reflecting data primarily from eyes without CME, and gradually decreased for increasing retinal thickness, reflecting data primarily from eyes with CME. Conclusions: MPOD is negatively related to the degree of photoreceptor loss and to the degree of CME in retinitis pigmentosa, the former effect outweighing the latter effect. MPOD is also related to iris color and to serum lutein in these patients.

Last Modified: 11/28/2014
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