Despite how crucial the macula is to our eyesight, few people could answer the question of what it is or how it functions. By increasing our understanding of the macula, we might be able to look after it better and ward off future problems with our eye health. Read on to find out why the macula is so essential to everyday life.

What is the macula?

Located near the middle of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, lies the macula. This is an oval-shaped pigmented spot that is responsible for controlling central, high-resolution vision. It is yellow in colour, meaning it absorbs all excess blue and ultraviolet light that enters the eye, thereby protecting the retina.

 

(Image: Lutein Info)

At the heart of the macula are the fovea and foveola, which contain a high density of photoreceptors with high acuity. These structures allow us to recognise detail and carry out tasks such as reading, driving and recognising faces.

The macula accounts for the central ten degrees of our visual field and when we study objects or people, we do this by aiming our macula accordingly.

Why is a healthy macula so important?

Even if we have a healthy retina, our central vision is not going to be any use unless the macular is in good condition. If any damage is caused to the macula, this can have serious repercussions for our sight and in many cases lead to the development of diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The macula is crucial to maintaining central vision and if this is impaired, it means most everyday activities that we take for granted go out the window. With AMD in particular, the continuous destruction of the macula might result in the creation of a macular hole or tear, which can cause sight to become distorted and blurred.

While macular holes tend to only affect one eye, there is a ten per cent chance that eventually the other eye will suffer too. It is not known exactly why some people have macular holes and other don’t, but anyone who thinks they have symptoms of the condition – floaters obstructing their vision or flashing lights – should get checked out by a medical professional.


How can I look after my macula?

Scientists may not know how to prevent macular holes from developing, but there are ways of safeguarding the eye against AMD. A number of studies have drawn links between the condition and diet and smoking, plus age is a major factor as most people who suffer from the disease are in their 40s or 50s.

Other research has suggested that individuals above the age of 65, women and those who have constant exposure to UV light have a higher chance of developing it.

While it is not known how to cure AMD, there are ways of preventing symptoms from worsening and making life more comfortable for the patient. Products such as EyeBuddy’s Macushield range contain lots of vitamin supplements that could help slow down the progress of AMD, as well as antioxidants that protect the macula.