Macular Degeneration Diagnosis

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 12,534
    Dr. Stephen Rose discusses the process for effectively diagnosing macular degeneration (AMD). Learn what you can expect during a doctor’s examination and about the importance of having regular eye exams.

    Stephen Rose: Hello! I'm Dr. Steve Rose of the Foundation Fighting Blindness and I am here to talk about Age-related Macular Degeneration or AMD. Now, I'll talk about the ways in which your doctor will diagnose AMD.

    In many cases, patients will be in the early stages of developing AMD and not notice any physical symptoms or changes to their vision. This can be especially true with dry AMD since it typically does not cause the sudden vision loss that wet AMD causes.

    However, in this early stage, Macular Degeneration is usually detectable by a thorough eye exam, where the doctor dilates your pupils to examine your retina. For this reason it is critical that you receive a routine eye exam at least once a year, especially if you're over the age of 55 or if the disease runs in your family. Remember, the earlier AMD is detected, the better your chance that you can minimize vision loss.

    There are several different tests that your doctor will perform to determine if you have Macular Degeneration. Your doctor will start with a routine eye exam, which includes an acuity test to measure how well you see shapes and details at different distances.

    An Amsler Grid Test can help to identify the distorted vision associated with AMD. This is especially important if the doctor thinks you have Wet AMD which in its early phases, maybe treatable. You look at a central dot on a grid that resembles graph paper. If the lines near the dot appear wavy, AMD maybe to blame. Your doctor may also administer a color test to see how well the retinal cone cells, the cells that are responsible for perceiving color, are operating.

    If your doctor notices any problems with your visual acuity or your color vision, he'll administer some additional tests that are specific to identify Macular Degeneration. Your doctor will dilate your pupils so that he can have a clear view of the retina in the back of the eye. Using an instrument called an ophthalmoscope, your doctor will be able to view the retina and look for disease characteristics that are consistent with AMD.

    Your doctor may suspect Dry AMD if the view through an ophthalmoscope reveals clumps of pigment or clusters of drusen, which are small, yellowish white deposits that build up under the Macular. Although these lesions can indicate early stages of AMD, they are not conclusive evidence. If your doctor suspects Wet AMD, you will probably undergo a procedure called a Fluorescein Angiography.

    Peter Campochiaro: We have some additional tests that help us, they're more sensitive than even looking into the eye and one of those is Fluorescein Angiography and Fluorescein Angiography is a test in which we inject a fluorescein dye into the veins and that goes throughout the body including the eye and then a special camera is used to photograph the retina.

    Normally that dye stays within retinal blood vessels and normal colloidal blood vessels, but if a patient has these abnormal blood vessels, those vessels are leaky and so they leak the dye out and it goes into the surrounding tissue of the retina and in that way we can determine that these abnormal blood vessels are present.

    Stephen Rose: Treatment options are determined by the form of AMD that you have, wet or dry and the severity of the disease. Every case of AMD is different, so course of treatment maybe different from one person to the next.

    Once you know that you have AMD, it's incredibly important that you continually monitor your vision and keep your doctor informed of any changes in your vision. At the Foundation Fighting Blindness, we recommend that you self-check your symptoms daily using an Amsler Grid. The Foundation provides Amsler Grids as a part of our AMD information packet, which you can receive free of charge simply by contacting us.

    If you'd like to learn more, visit fightblindness.

    org and check our other videos on AMD, including treatments and therapies.