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Diagnosis of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on August 17, 2022

Your doctor can check you for age-related macular degeneration when you see them for a routine eye exam and have your eyes dilated. An early diagnosis will let you start treatment that may delay some symptoms or make them less severe.

Tests

You doctor will test your vision, dilate your eyes, and examine your retina -- a layer of tissue at the back of your eye that processes light. They'll look for tiny yellow deposits called drusen under the retina. It's a common early sign of the disease. Your doctor may also ask you to look at an Amsler grid -- a pattern of straight lines that's like a checkerboard. If some of the lines appear wavy to you or some of them are missing, it could be a sign of macular degeneration.

Tests If your doctor thinks you have age-related macular degeneration, they may want you to have one or both of these exams:

Optical coherence tomography (OCT). It's a special photograph that shows a magnified 3D image of your retina. This method helps your doctor see if your retinal layers are distorted. They can also see if swelling is getting better or worse if you had treatment with injections or laser.

Fluorescein angiography. In this procedure, your doctor injects a dye into a vein in your arm. They take photos as the dye reaches your eye and flows through the blood vessels of the retina. The images will show new vessels or vessels that are leaking fluid or blood in the macula -- a small area at the center of your retina.