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What Is Involved in a Macular Degeneration Test?

Age-related macular degeneration is a progressive disorder that can cause blindness.
Most doctors will perform a complete eye exam to check for macular degeneration.
Article Details
  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Those with symptoms of macular degeneration should make an eye doctor appointment to get tested, as an early diagnosis can lead to early treatment. One of the most common ways to screen for this condition is by using an Amsler grid, which is a plain grid with a black dot in the middle. Most doctors use this macular degeneration test during a diagnostic appointment, but it can typically also be found online and used by anyone. Another common method of diagnosing this condition requires the doctor to examine the back part of the eye, and also look for thinning or thickening of the retina. Some doctors also perform angiograms to take a look at the blood vessels in the eye.

The Amsler grid is a popular macular degeneration test that requires patients to look at a square chart that features crisscrossed black lines, with a black dot in the center. Patients are instructed to cover one eye, and then concentrate on the center dot. If some of lines appear wavy, blurry, or completely missing, this can be a sign of vision loss due to macular degeneration. Patients who cannot see all four sides and corners, or who see a dark blob near the center of the grid, are likely suffering from this eye condition. On the other hand, those who merely see a square chart with straight black lines that intersect at right angles have likely not experienced any vision loss.

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Most doctors also perform a complete eye exam during the appointment, taking care to check behind the eyes, as well. During this macular degeneration test, they frequently use eye drops and a magnifying lens to dilate each eye and check for drusen, or yellow spots that typically show up in large amounts when macular degeneration has occurred. Additionally, many eye doctors check to see if the retina has thinned out or thickened at all, as either one often occurs with macular degeneration.

Another type of macular degeneration test that many doctors perform is an angiogram, which can help diagnose wet macular degeneration in particular. This is because this exam looks for abnormal growth of blood vessels, which is usually a sign of the wet form of this condition. During this test, colored dye is injected into the patient so that the blood vessels are more visible. Pictures are then taken so that the doctor can view the blood vessels and determine whether they are normal, or signal macular degeneration. Depending on the stage and severity of the condition, treatment may be offered following this type of macular degeneration test.

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