As eyecare providers, we know that the eye is a window to the entire body’s health. Nutrition is just one of the vital things we can assess during the eye exam, and we know that nutritional deficiencies can have devastating long-term effects on vision. With our population aging and the incidence of macular degeneration on the rise (an estimated 11 million Americans have macular degeneration right now, and that number is expected to double by 2050), discussing ocular nutrition and the risks of oxidative damage to the macula is an essential part of the optometric eye exam.
While many of us utilize OCT technology and fundus photography to carefully assess macular health, this technology can only find disease – not the risk for future disease 5, 10, 20 years down the road. Enter a new diagnostic tool: the biophotonic scanner can assess a patient’s carotenoid levels through a quick and easy scan of their skin.
Yes, you read that right, the skin.
The Nu Skin biophotonic scanner by Pharmanex is a table-top device that non-invasively measures carotenoid levels in living tissue through a quick scan of a person’s hand, providing instant indication of a person’s overall antioxidant levels. The scan itself takes only 30 seconds to perform. A recent study published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Vision Science showed that skin carotenoid measurements correlate with both blood and macular carotenoid levels.
We sat down with Dr. Andrew Feltz, optometrist and clinical director at Pharmanex to learn more. He shared how he uses this technology to assess patients both in office, and at local health fairs and community screenings to drive awareness of macular degeneration and the importance of routine eyecare. When patients see their own scores, he’s found they are much more likely to take his recommendation of diet changes and nutritional supplements more seriously.
The biophotonic scanner has the added benefit of letting patients quickly assess improvement when they make changes to their diet or start supplements. He has had patients improve their carotenoid scores in as little as 3 months taking nutritional supplements – fast feedback for patients to encourage them that the changes they are making are indeed working!
You can learn more about this new technology and how it could be used to educate your own patients in the exam room and beyond by checking out Dr. Feltz’s recent article in Review of Optometric Business.