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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

Macular Degeneration Diagnosis

Macular degeneration is diagnosed through a dilated exam of the retina by an ophthalmologist. During this exam, the ophthalmologist may:

  • Measure distance visual acuity
  • Ask the patient to look at a pattern of straight horizontal and vertical lines, known as an Amsler grid. (Patients with AMD may see wavy lines, distorted or missing lines, or a black spot in the center of the grid)
  • Perform a dilated examination of the retina to look for evidence of retinal photoreceptor damage.
  • Perform imaging tests such as optical coherence tomography (OCT) and fluorescein angiography to determine the extent of AMD.

Once a patient is diagnosed with dry AMD, they should be vigilant to check the vision in each eye, one at a time, at least once a day. By staring at the central point on an Amsler grid, patients can detect distortion of the grid surrounding the central point. These distortions may represent wet macular degeneration, which requires urgent treatment (see below).

Treatment for AMD

Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) demonstrated that vitamin supplementation slowed the progression of dry AMD. This study demonstrated the benefits of taking Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta-carotene, and zinc along with copper. Several preparations containing the appropriate amounts of these vitamins and micronutrients are currently available and we encourage patients with AMD to discuss these various vitamin preparations with their eye care specialist. Smoking is detrimental to patients with AMD, so quitting is recommended. All smokers should avoid beta-carotene, and instead take a vitamin formulation that contains lutein.
There are currently no therapies that can stop vision loss from dry AMD. At the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, we continue lab research and clinical trials into new drugs designed to stop and reverse vision loss due to dry AMD.