Retinal pigment epithelium is a big phrase, so it can sound scary if an eye doctor mentions it to you. On its own, retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) does not mean anything bad. But, it’s important to understand what it means and how it affects your vision. The RPE has an important role in nourishing your nerve tissue and keeping your retina healthy. Let’s learn more about RPE and what questions to ask your ophthalmologist.
What is Retinal Pigment Epithelium?
The RPE is a pigmented layer of cells that are located outside the retina and attached to the choroid. The role of the RPE is to nourish the retinal cells. It does this by bringing nutrients to the nearby photoreceptor cells and carrying waste products away from the cells and into the choroid. This prevents damage from built-up waste materials.
Most people don’t think about RPE until they are faced with certain eye conditions, such as macular degeneration. In fact, research suggests that macular degeneration starts in the RPE. When things go wrong in the process of carrying nutrients and removing waste, it can lead to complications that affect healthy cell production.
When RPE Stops Working
We know that the role of the RPE is to nourish the retina’s nerve tissue and transport molecules in and out. Some of this waste includes dead cells and hormones. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a perfect system. There are times when the RPE cells are confused, and they lose their ability to remove debris. If these molecules stick around, they can cause inflammation and even cell death.
Not everyone has the same risk factors for this type of inflammatory response. Research shows that some factors may raise the risk, including genetics, age, and environmental stressors. Researchers are still trying to better understand what makes the RPE stop working and what options may be available for reversing it. You can read some of the most promising research here.
Keeping Your Eyes Healthy
In the meantime, the best you can do for your eye health is follow the prevention tips for macular degeneration:
● Eat dark, leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach
● Eat fresh fruits and nuts
● Eat fish or take a fish oil supplement
● Take a multivitamin
● Exercise daily
● Maintain a healthy weight
● Limit refined carbohydrates
● Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol healthy
● Wear sunglasses
● See your eye doctor regularly
If you have been diagnosed with macular degeneration and want a second opinion, call Empire Retina today.