Age-related macular degeneration (AMD or ARMD) is a leading cause of blindness in older adults. February is AMD and Low Vision Month, a time to raise awareness about this condition and the impact it has on those affected. At Cascade Eye & Skin Centers, we are dedicated to helping individuals with age-related macular degeneration receive the necessary care and support. We want to remind patients to schedule an eye exam and get tested for AMD during Low Vision Month.
What is Age-related Macular Degeneration?
AMD is a degenerative disease of the retina, the part of the eye responsible for central vision. It occurs when the macula, a small area in the center of the retina, deteriorates. This may cause a loss of sharp, central vision, making it difficult to see fine details and do activities like reading and driving.
Types of AMD
There are two types of age-related macular degeneration, dry and wet. The type and severity of AMD may determine the amount of vision loss experienced. The best way to determine which type of AMD you have is to get tested by an eye care professional.
Dry AMD is the most common type, with about 80% of those diagnosed having this form of the disease. It is caused by the macula gradually thinning over time and when yellow deposits of lipids and proteins called drusen begin to grow. Unfortunately, there is no current cure for dry AMD.
Although less common than dry AMD, wet AMD is much more severe. Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels form in the retina and leak fluid or blood, causing rapid vision loss. Moreover, it is important to note that wet age-related macular degeneration always starts as dry AMD.
Who is at Risk for AMD?
Several factors may increase a person’s risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. Caucasians, those with heart disease, and having high cholesterol are all associated with an increased risk of the condition. Other risk factors for AMD may include:
- Being overweight
- Having a diet high in saturated fats
- Having a family history of AMD
- Being over the age of 50
AMD Diagnosis and the Amsler Grid
Diagnosis of AMD typically begins with a comprehensive eye exam, including a visual acuity test and a dilated eye exam. During a dilated eye exam, drops are used to widen the pupils, allowing your eye care provider to examine the retina for signs of AMD. Optical coherence tomography may also be used to evaluate the retina. This test uses a machine to scan and take detailed pictures of the macula and retina.
Furthermore, fluorescein angiography may also be conducted to identify leaky blood vessels and diagnose wet AMD. During this test, a yellow dye is injected into the arm, and images are taken of the retina as the dye passes through. This will help determine if abnormal blood vessels are growing under the retina.
The Amsler Grid
An Amsler grid is a simple tool used to detect vision changes caused by age-related macular degeneration and other eye conditions that affect the macula. The Amsler grid is a square grid of horizontal and vertical lines with a dot in the center. The grid is typically printed on a piece of paper or card and can be held up to the eye or viewed on a computer screen.
To use the grid, cover one eye and focus the other on the central dot. While looking directly at the dot, check for any distortions, wavy lines, or missing areas in the grid. Be sure to repeat the test for the other eye and compare the results. If the lines on the grid appear wavy, distorted, or missing, it may indicate there’s a problem with the macula. Further testing may be necessary to make a diagnosis. An image of an Amsler grid looks like this:
Below is an example of what an Amsler grid might look like if someone has AMD:
The Amsler grid can be used as a self-test to monitor vision changes over time and detect early signs of AMD or other macular disorders. Therefore, it is recommended to perform the Amsler grid test regularly.
Click here to download and print the Amsler grid! If you notice any vision changes using the grid, schedule an appointment with Cascade Eye & Skin Centers.
It’s important to note that the Amsler grid is not a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam, and it’s not a diagnostic tool. However, it may help identify vision changes that indicate the need for further evaluation. If you suspect any changes in your vision, it’s crucial to consult with an eye care provider immediately.
Receive a Comprehensive Eye Exam
During this Low Vision Month, Cascade Eye & Skin Centers wants to remind our patients of the importance of a comprehensive eye exam. Age-related macular degeneration may have serious long-term consequences, and early detection is vital in preventing further vision loss. Low Vision Month is the perfect time to schedule an eye exam with Cascade Eye & Skin Centers. Contact us today, and let us help protect your vision.