How is macular degeneration detected?

Your eye care professional may suspect macular degeneration if you are over age 60 and have had recent changes in your central vision. Your doctor may perform the following tests to determine if you have macular degeneration:

Visual acuity test: This eye chart exam measures how well you see at various distances.

Dilated eye exam: Drops are placed in your eyes to widen, or dilate, the pupils. Your eye care professional uses a special magnifying lens to examine your retina and optic nerve for signs of macular degeneration and other eye problems. After the exam, your close-up vision may remain blurred for several hours.

Tonometry: An instrument measures the pressure inside the eye. Numbing drops may be applied to your eye for this test.


Amsler Grid

The Amsler Grid is a simple way to test your vision quality and can detect degenerative changes in the macula. This test only takes a moment and the results can give you a warning of changes in your retina that may require immediate attention by an ophthalmologist. While wearing your reading glasses, cover one eye and look at the dot in the center of the grid. The grid should appear uniform in size and shape. If you notice that areas on the grid are distorted, blurred, or discolored contact your eye doctor immediately.


Amsler Grid          Amsler Grid

Test your vision. Click here for a full-size printable Amsler grid. The grid will appear in a new browser window on your computer, specially sized for printing.


What is drusen?

Most people with drusen have no symptoms. However, the development of drusen may be a precursor to the development of macular degeneration. Drusen are protein deposits that form beneath the retina in a layer called Bruch’s membrane. There are two types of drusen; smaller, hard deposits and larger deposits that are soft. The smaller drusen deposits don’t increase with age and are not thought to be related to macular degeneration. However, soft drusen deposits are associated with, and may be an indicator of, macular degeneration. Additionally, people with soft drusen may be at an increased risk for sub-retinal bleeding.


What should I do about drusen?

It is very important to be followed closely by an ophthalmologist if drusen are present. Only an ophthalmologist can monitor subtle changes in the retina and manage any complications that may arise. If you have drusen, you should also perform a self-test using an Amsler grid each day to monitor any changes in your vision. If you notice that areas on the grid are distorted, blurred, or discolored contact your eye doctor immediately.

Currently, there isn’t an effective way to treat drusen.  However, clinical trials are underway to evaluate various methods, including laser treatments.