Diagnostic tests

Tests performed by your eye doctor

There are a number of diagnostic tests for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Your eye doctor might want to conduct one or more of these tests in order to properly assess your vision and check the health of your eyes.

Diagnostic tests for AMD include:

  • visual acuity tests. This standard measurement of a person’s ability to see, using an eye chart.

  • dilated eye exams. In this test, drops are placed into the eye to widen (dilate) the pupils and allow a direct view of the inside of your eye, including the retina. A special magnifying lens is then used to examine the retina and the optic nerve for signs of damage. This test may temporarily blur your vision for one to two hours, so you may want to bring a friend or family member with you to help you get home. You may also want to bring sunglasses to wear on the trip home, as your eyes will be sensitive to the sunlight because of the drops.

  • fluorescein angiograms. Your optometrist may refer you to an ophthalmologist for this test, where a dye is injected into a vein and then circulated within the eye. Photographs are then taken of any abnormal blood vessels.

  • optical coherence tomographys (OCT). In this test, a diagnostic imaging device is used to detect retinal disease.

The Amsler grid: Detect early signs of AMD at home

There is one test for detecting early signs of AMD that can be performed easily and in the privacy of your own home: the Amsler grid.

Featuring evenly-spaced horizontal and vertical lines and a black dot in the middle, the Amsler grid test is an easy way to immediately detect any early signs of AMD. Access your own printable version of the Amsler grid.Image of Amsler grid, normal vision

Image of Amsler grid, normal vision


Image of Amsler grid, vision with AMD

To use the Amsler grid:

  • Place it on your refrigerator, bathroom mirror or in another convenient location.

  • Position yourself 12 to 14 inches away (at a comfortable reading distance).

  • If you wear glasses, keep them on. If you wear bifocals, use the reading portion of the lens.

  • Cover one eye and look at the dot in the centre of the grid. Note whether or not there are any distortions or breaks in the lines of the grid. Also note if the centre dot or any of the lines disappear.

  • Test the other eye the same way.

  • Check the grid daily or as often as recommended by your eye doctor. Notify your doctor if you discover any changes at all in your vision.

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