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Diagnosis of Macular Degeneration

by Amy Scholten, MPH

Your health care provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. Your health care provider may suspect adult macular degeneration if you are over the age of 50 and have changes in your central vision. You will probably be referred to an eye care professional, such as an opthamologist or optometrist, who will look for signs of macular degeneration.

Eye Evaluation for Macular Degeneration:

Visual Acuity Test - This eye chart test measures how well you see at various distances.

Pupil Dilation - Eye drops will be placed in your eyes to dilate, or enlarge, your pupils. This way, your eye care professional can view the back of your eye. One of the most common early signs of adult macular degeneration is the presence of drusen-tiny yellow deposits in the retina. Your eye care professional can see them during an eye examination. The presence of drusen alone does not indicate disease, but it might mean that the eye is at risk for developing more severe adult macular degeneration. After the examination, your vision may remain blurred for several hours due to the dilating drops.

Amsler Grid - You may be asked to view an Amsler grid, a pattern that looks like a checkerboard. You will be asked to cover one eye and stare at a black dot in the center of the grid. While staring at the dot, you may notice that the straight lines in the pattern appear wavy to you. You may notice that some of the lines are missing. These may be signs of macular degeneration.

Fluorescein Angiography - If your eye care professional suspects you have wet macular degeneration, you may need to have a test called fluorescein angiography. In this test, a special dye is injected into a vein in your arm. Pictures are then taken as the dye passes through the blood vessels in the retina. The photos help your eye care professional evaluate leaking blood vessels to determine whether they can be treated.


Macular Degeneration Foundation.

National Eye Institute.

Last reviewed October 2004 by Marc Ellman, MD

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