Our eyes are the windows to our souls. Indeed, our eyes have many functions, including light reception, light perception and vision. Without our eyes we cannot perceive our environment, the foods that we eat, the people we go with and our work. This is why have to take care of our eyes very well, so that we cannot lose contact of our world.
But what happens if unexpectedly we develop some illnesses which hamper our vision? One of these illnesses that can affect our eyes is retinal degeneration. The retina is the part of the eyes which is sensitive to light. It is located at the back portion of the eye and it makes up about 65% of the eye's interior. Inside the retina are rods and cones that convert light to signals that are carried by the optic nerve to the brain. The retina contains a small dimple in its centre called the fovea centrallis; this is the area where the sharpest vision occurs and where colour perception is mostly done.
There are millions of people around the world affected by retinal degeneration. Retinal degeneration is a medical condition wherein there may be irreversible vision loss because of a degenerative process in the retina. In most of these conditions, the tissue layer than is located on the inner part of the eye which is so delicate becomes damaged and thus has an impaired ability to send signals to the brain. The most common of retinal degenerative disorders is age-related macular degeneration and is usually found among the elderly. Other retinal degenerative disorders are mostly inherited and may be due to genetic mutations. Examples of these inherited retinal degenerative disorders include retinitis pigmentosa, retinoschisis, choroideremia, congenital amaurosis, Stargardt disease and Usher disease. All these retinal degenerative diseases can cause the death of photoreceptors which are light-sensing neurons in the retina.
Exercise and Retinal Degeneration
There is no definite treatment for retinal degeneration, however most of us can delay or prevent it. This is exactly what a new study is trying to say in their recent findings. A study published in The Journal of Neuroscience has found out that moderate aerobic exercise can help preserve retinal structure and function. Exercise can positively impact nerve cells found in the retina by preserving them after damage. Past studies have already discussed that exercise can protect against neurodegenerative diseases and neurological injuries, however they have not fully detailed if exercise can affect vision.
In this study done by researchers from Atlanta VA Center for Visual and Neurocognitive Rehabilitation and Emory University, mice were made to run in treadmills for two weeks before and after they were exposed to bright light that can cause retinal degeneration. These mice were trained for one hour per day for five days a week for two weeks. After exposure to bright light, the mice exercised for two weeks. Mice who exercised lost only half of the number of photoreceptor cells as compared to mice which didn't exercise.
The researchers found out exercising on treadmill preserved the function of photoreceptors and the function of the cells of the retina. This is said to be the first study that was able to show how exercise was able to preserve vision and retinal health. The researchers hope that their findings can pave the way towards creating exercising regimens that can prevent blindness from retinal degeneration.
The researchers also found out that the retinal cells of the mice who exercised became more responsive to light and contained higher levels of a growth protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BNDF has been found by past studies to increase during exercise.
For more information on how exercise can benefit you, feel free to browse our other articles on this site.