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More than 10 million people in the United States have macular degeneration. This condition is the primary cause of vision loss among Americans.
Age-related macular degeneration affects the retina’s central area. (Learn More) This can interrupt vision, making it difficult to carry out daily tasks, such as driving or reading a newspaper.
The Amsler grid test is a tool people can use at home to detect this eye condition. (Learn More) It is a simple test. With proper use, it can help people to know when they need to consult an eye doctor.
If the Amsler grid test is positive, it is important that people promptly visit their doctor. (Learn More) The doctor can perform other tests to confirm the diagnosis of age-related macular degeneration. (Learn More)
What Is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
People with age-related macular degeneration maintain normal peripheral vision, but their central vision gradually decreases. This condition affects both near and far vision.
There are two primary types of this condition. The dry type is the most common, and it accounts for about 85 to 90 percent of cases. The wet type accounts for about 10 to 15 percent of cases.
The dry type typically results from drusen, or tiny yellow deposits, appearing in the macula. These deposits can cause vision distortion. The vision loss can occur gradually when drusen are associated with tissue breakdown and macular thinning.
With the wet type, abnormal blood vessels start to develop under the macula. These can leak blood and fluid into the eye. Major vision problems are common with this type, such as central vision loss and blind spots. This type can progress rapidly. Permanent loss of central vision and retinal damage are possible when scarring affects abnormal blood vessels.
Most people with the dry type do not experience central vision loss. However, the dry type can become the wet type. The wet type significantly increases the risk of vision loss.
How to Use the Amsler Grid Test
This test is a grid that consists of black lines and white boxes. It allows people to look for line distortion or missing visual field area. To properly use this chart, follow these steps:
- Tape the grid to a surface at eye level that has no glare and where there is consistent light.
- Put reading glasses on and cover one eye.
- Focus on the black dot in the center of the grid.
- Determine if any lines are missing or distorted while maintaining a fixed gaze.
- Switch to the other eye and repeat the test.
With every test, use the same distance and compare the vision to the previous test. The ideal distance is 12 to 15 inches. If any differences occur, make an appointment with an eye doctor.
Ideally, people over age 50 and those at risk for this condition should use the Amsler grid test about once a week.
What to Do if You Have a Positive Result
A positive result would be the grid lines looking blurry, dark, wavy, or blank. Should this happen, make an appointment with an eye doctor.
Your doctor can perform additional testing to determine if your vision issues are due to age-related macular degeneration.
It is imperative to schedule an eye appointment as soon as someone has a positive Amsler grid test result. This is because if someone has the wet type, retinal scarring may start to develop within a few months if the condition goes untreated.
Other Age-Related Macular Degeneration Tests
Once people reach their 60th birthday, they need to see an eye doctor for a complete examination. After this exam, the doctor will let them know if they need to follow up annually or every two years.
Fluorescein angiography works to examine blood flow in the choroid and retina. The doctor puts drops in the eyes to dilate the pupils. Photos are taken of the inner eye. After this, fluorescein (a type of dye) is injected into a vein. More photos are taken to see how the dye is moving through the back of the eye’s blood vessels.
Indocyanine green angiography is similar to fluorescein angiography. However, it uses an indocyanine green dye instead of fluorescein to see how blood flows through the blood vessels.
Optical coherence tomography takes cross-sectional photos of the retina using light waves. This information allows the eye doctor to determine the thickness of the retina’s layers.
A slit lamp exam may be part of a routine eye exam. It lets the doctor examine the eyes microscopically to look for issues or abnormalities.
A Treatable Condition
Once someone has a confirmed diagnosis of age-related macular degeneration, there are treatments that can help with the symptoms. However, this condition is not curable.
With the right treatments, people can preserve their vision as much as possible. Regular vision tests, including using the Amsler grid test, can help people to know right away when issues with their vision are occurring.
What Is Macular Degeneration? American Macular Degeneration Foundation.
What Is Macular Degeneration? (May 17, 2018). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Cleveland Clinic.
Amsler Chart to Test Your Sight. American Macular Degeneration Foundation.
Have AMD? Save Your Sight With an Amsler Grid? (May 25, 2016). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
How to Use the Amsler Grid. BrightFocus Foundation.
AMD (Age-Related Macular Degeneration). Prevent Blindness.
Fluorescein Angiography. MedlinePlus.
Indocyanine Green Angiography. University of Iowa Health Care.
What Is Optical Coherence Tomography? (April 27, 2018). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Slit Lamp Exam. (July 7, 2016). Healthline.