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Research Sheds Light on Leading Cause of Blindness in NZ

October 9, 2013

Research Sheds Light on Leading Cause of Blindness in NZ

A narrow spectrum of UV light may be responsible for accelerating New Zealand’s most common cause of blindness new research suggests.

Macular degeneration affects one in seven New Zealanders over the age of 50 and occurs when the macula or central part of the retina degenerates due to ageing which can result in total blindness.

Emitted by the sun and also by artificial light sources such as LEDs and computers or smartphones, blue light -the range of the visible light spectrum with wavelengths between 380-500 nm- plays a beneficial role on health, in particular by regulating the internal biological clock.

However, NZ optometrist and GM of Essilor Thomas Martin says a specific band of this light may have a harmful effect on the eyes and worsen the effects of Macular degeneration.

Martin says the research found wavelengths of ‘blue’ light between 415 and 455 nm* are the most harmful for the target retinal cells.

He says the new results will help medical professionals better advise patients with age related macular degeneration - the most common form of preventable blindness in New Zealand.

It has also led to the development of a new preventative lens which New Zealanders will be among the first in the world to have access to.

"The research is particularly interesting as it allowed the development of a filter for the specific wavelength found to damage the retinal cells while at the same time allowing through the part of the spectrum which may help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)," says Martin.

The Crizal Prevencia coating developed by Essilor provides selective UV protection even for clear lenses.

"This preventative lens not only offers selective protection against harmful blue light - one of the risk factors in retinal cell degeneration but also against UV rays, which contribute to the development of cataracts," says Martin.

The lenses were developed using Light Scan, a new technology which filters light allowing beneficial blue light to pass through but removing harmful blue violet rays and retaining the transparency of the spectacle lens.

Martin says the lens coating also provides additional protection against the backlight devices such as mobiles and tablets which he says are damaging our eye health at unprecedented levels.

He says the research is a timely reminder of New Zealanders need to take better care of their eye health as is World Sight Day (October 10).

Established by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, World Sight Day (WSD) is an annual day of awareness held on the second Thursday of October, to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment.

On October 10, 60 optometrists around New Zealand will hit the streets to raise awareness and seeking gold coin donations to support the work of Macular Degeneration New Zealand Eye lens manufacturer Essilor NZ is supporting this fundraising initiative by providing wrist bands to all who give to this worthy cause.

Kumuda Setty, Marketing Manager from Essilor says as a leader in the ophthalmic industry Essilor’s mission is to enable as many people as possible to live a better life through better sight and to have the public’s attention on the consequences of poor vision.

About Essilor
The world's leading ophthalmic optics company, Essilor designs, manufactures and markets a wide range of lenses to improve and protect eyesight. Its corporate mission is to enable everyone around the world to access lenses that meet his or her unique vision requirements. To support this mission, the Company allocates around €150 million to research and development every year, in a commitment to continuously bring new, more effective products to market. Essilor's flagship brands are Varilux, Crizal, Definity, Xperio, OptifogTM and Foster Grant. It also develops and markets equipment, instruments and services for eyecare professionals.

ENDS

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