Diagnosing Macular Degeneration

Diagnosing Macular Degeneration

Diagnosing Macular Degeneration

Diagnosing Macular Degeneration


With age, the central part of the retina, the macula, begins to degenerate. By age 60, sometimes earlier, people start having difficulties carrying out everyday chores. Writing, driving, cooking, dialing a phone and recognizing faces become a challenge. Their central vision fails, making it difficult to focus on objects straight ahead. This is macular degeneration.




Checking for macular degeneration requires a comprehensive eye exam. The optometrist inquires about your symptoms, previous eye problems, and current health condition. He then proceeds to conduct some tests.


The tests include the following:

  • A visual acuity test: This is a central vision test. The optometrist asks you to cover one eye and read letters written on a wall chart twenty feet away. Central vision deteriorates continually for persons with macular degeneration. The doctor determines whether your vision has changed since your checkup. Besides the central vision, your peripheral or side vision is of interest also.

  • The dilated eye exam: The doctor places some eye drops into your eyes to dilate the pupils. Dilation provides enough room to observe the back of the retina and magnifies the macula view. A degenerated macula will have a mottled appearance brought by pigment changes. He may also see drusen, some yellow deposits that form beneath the retina.

  • Ophthalmoscopy: This test examines the eye’s interior structures to identify signs of macular degeneration like drusen. Drusen presents as some yellowish-white spots that develop underneath the retina. An ophthalmoscope, the tool used, has a mirror that reflects light inside the eye. The doctor observes the images from a central hole on the instrument. Although drusen are normal with age, large deposits indicate macular degeneration.

  • Eye angiogram: Also called an optical coherence tomography, this test enables the doctor to take an image of the back of the eye. The test has more detailed results than any other test. The optometrist observes the retina, choroid, optic nerve, and the macula. He also takes note of thinning areas of the retina, a sign of geographic atrophy. Next, he checks to see if abnormal blood vessels are growing under the macula. This test is suitable for persons the doctor suspects have wet macular degeneration. It helps to locate leaking vessels and to assess whether treatment is possible.

  • The Amsler grid test: This test determines if you have wet macular degeneration. Persons with this condition see grid lines as curvy or wavy rather than straight.

  • Tonometry: This is a test designed to measure intraocular eye pressure, the pressure inside the eyes. High eye pressure damages the delicate nerve fibers located to the back of your eye, causing blindness. While high eye pressure has no direct relationship with macular degeneration, it rules out eye diseases like glaucoma. In the process, the test helps to determine the reason behind vision loss. It could be a disease of the macular or of another part of the eye.


Early diagnosis of macular degeneration has many benefits. If intervention starts early enough, it can halt, slow, or reverse the degeneration. The intervention consists of treatment, lifestyle changes, diet, and supplements.


For a comprehensive macular degeneration exam, visit St. Marys Family Eye Care at St. Marys, Ohio. You can also call 419-800-0400 to book your appointment.

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