Blue Peak Macular monitoring
Blue Peak Technology analyses the cellular activity of your retina, detecting retinal and macular degeneration earlier than ever before leading to more efficient treatment.
- Why is Blue Peak is better at detecting macular changes than a typical eye examination?
We have known for a long time that early identification is critical in most retinal diseases, especially macular degeneration and regular and accurate retina health checks, particularly in high-risk patients, could help minimise future damage and even prevent blindness. Therefore finding the tiniest changes to the retina can lead to earlier diagnosis and more efficient treatment.
In the UK, Wet Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in over 50’s, affecting around 500 000 people worldwide each year. This figure might, however, be significantly higher, with further research indicating that between 55% and 70% of AMD sufferers are undiagnosed. Current techniques are therefore clearly inadequate at diagnosing the condition early enough. Blue Peak technology can help overcome this problem.
Current photographic technology allows us to see the surface of your retina (a bit like looking at the cover of a book) and identify substantial changes to the surface often showing too little information, too late. 4D eye scans allow us to see the individual cells in your retina (like reading every letter in a book) and so can identify tiny changes much earlier. But imagine if we could not only see the tiny cells at the back of your eye but also what these cells contained and, therefore, analyse how efficiently they were working thus predicting where damage may occur and treat conditions before they cause sight loss. Imagine if we could do this with just the use of light, do it non-invasively and comfortably. Well, thanks to Blue Peak technology this is now possible.
- How does Blue Peak scanning work?
When light hits the back of the eye, it stimulates cells in the retina. These cells known as photoreceptors trigger the nerves in the eye to send a message to the brain and allow us to see. Like all cells in our body, the photoreceptors produce waste products which in this case are broken down into a bi-product called lipofuscin.
It is normal for retinal cells to have some lipofuscin in them, in fact, the presence of this waste product in small quantities indicates that the retinal cells are working well. The body is usually efficient at metabolising and getting rid of these waste products but as we age this process slows down leading to accumulation in the cells. If the cells stop working altogether the level of this waste lipofuscin raises considerably effectively ‘bunging up the cells’ so as they can no longer function- i.e., this part of your retina can no longer see.
Therefore, by measuring the level of lipofuscin in the retinal cells, we can see if the retina is working efficiently (normal lipofuscin levels), at risk of damage (increasing lipofuscin) or damaged beyond repair (too much lipofuscin).
The scan uses a bright light to examine the back of your eye and map the areas and density of lipofuscin allowing us to diagnose quickly and non-invasively and monitor some retinal diseases, most of which are still largely under-diagnosed and, therefore, undertreated.
- Can I have this test at any optician or the hospital?
No. Being able to measure the levels lipofuscin in your retinal cells is not something that can be done simply by looking into your eyes or photographing them. We need to measure the cellular content of your retina which requires specialist equipment. Due to the large investment required less than 0.4% of hospitals and practices in the UK have Blue Peak Scanning technology.
Detecting the cellular changes to the retina is something which has until now has only been able to be achieved in the hospital setting by injecting a patient with a dye and using a special camera to look into the eye- an extremely invasive procedure given that the dye used can lead to anaphylactic shock! Therefore, this test is only ever conducted when a patient is already developing significant sight problems. The Blue Peak scans are used to help prevent your eyes getting to this stage. Thankfully with the development of Blue Peak imaging, we can look at the cellular level of your retina without injections, dye or any unpleasantries.
- Who should have a Blue Peak scan?
Everyone. By attaining a baseline for your lipofuscin at any age, we can then closely monitor for any future change.
If you have been diagnosed with or have a family history of macular degeneration, then regular scans are invaluable at monitoring for the slightest change.
- What can you do if a problem or change is detected?
If you have the earliest signs of wet macular degeneration, treatment can be started as soon as possible to prevent sight loss. If you have dry macular changes starting specific vitamin supplementation has been shown to stabilise lipofuscin changes. Scanning regularly can ensure any treatment is working.
- How often should I have the scan?
If your scans are normal, and there is no family history of macular degeneration then at every eye examination should be frequent enough.
If you have the earliest signs of retinal problems, you may require more frequent scanning. Without treatment, retinal atrophy (cell death) slowly enlarges at a median rate of 1.5-2.1mm per year. Therefore, we can often see tiny changes in just a few weeks or months. Depending on your eyesight and Blue Peak scan results your optometrist will recommend a suitable interval to repeat the scan.
If your optometrist detects any change or is concerned about your family history, they may suggest taking further measurements of your macula for future comparison. These include 4D OCT scans and multi- colour images.
- How much does a Blue Peak scan cost?
£95 for both eyes.
- What happens at the scan appointment?
The Optometrist will instil a drop into both of your eyes to dilate your pupils - this gives us the best view of the retina. The drop will make your vision slightly blurry therefore you should not drive to the appointment. The drops take approximately 15minutes to work (you can enjoy one of our loose leaf teas or freshly ground coffee while you wait). You will be taken to the scanning room and asked to look at a bright light while the machine scans your retina which takes approximately 30 seconds per eye. The machine does not touch your eye.