Age-Related Macular Degeneration - Exams and Tests

A doctor can usually detect age-related macular degeneration (AMD) with a regular eye exam. The doctor first will find out more about your symptoms, past eye problems, and other health conditions by asking you about your medical history.

Vision tests

Visual acuity test

The doctor will test your central vision with a visual acuity test. During this test, you cover one eye and read letters on a wall chart 20 ft (6.1 m) away. Central vision gets worse over time in a person who has AMD, and a visual acuity test can measure whether your vision has become worse since your last exam. The doctor may also test your visual field, which includes both your central vision and side (peripheral) vision.

Ophthalmoscopy

Your doctor will look inside your eye using ophthalmoscopy. This test lets your doctor check for possible signs of this disease, such as drusen, which appear as yellowish white spots under the retina . Although some small drusen can usually be found in the macula as a normal result of aging, the presence of numerous large drusen is associated with AMD.1

Amsler grid test

An Amsler grid test can detect wet AMD. If you have wet AMD, lines on the grid appear wavy or curved instead of straight, or you may see a blank spot or hole on part of the grid.

For more information on vision testing, see the topic Vision Tests.

Other tests

If your doctor thinks that you may have wet AMD, you may also have a test called an eye angiogram or an optical coherence tomography (OCT) to find out if abnormal blood vessels are growing beneath the macula. The tests can also locate leaky blood vessels under the macula and help your doctor find out if they can be treated.

If you have AMD and some loss of vision, your doctor may do a low-vision evaluation to help find ways for you to make the most of your remaining vision and keep your quality of life.

Early detection

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that all people ages 40 to 54 have a comprehensive eye exam every 2 to 4 years to help detect AMD early. The following table summarizes the recommendations for comprehensive eye exams:2

Eye exam schedule
Age (years) When to get a comprehensive eye exam
65 or older Every 1-2 years
55-64 Every 1-3 years
40-54 Every 2-4 years
Younger than 40 5-10 years
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
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