Skip to content

    Eye Health Center

    Font Size

    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.


    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 camera.gif. 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 camera.gif 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

    Last Updated: September 09, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    Woman holding tissue to reddened eye
    Learn about causes, symptoms, and treatments.
    Simple annoyance or the sign of a problem?
    red eyes
    Symptoms, triggers, and treatments.
    blue eye with contact lens
    Tips for wearing and caring.
    Understanding Stye
    human eye
    eye exam timing
    vision test
    is vision correction surgery for you
    high tech contacts
    eye drop