Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that causes central vision impairment while leaving peripheral vision intact. When AMD is caused by abnormal growths of blood vessels that leak in the eye, it is called wet AMD, but when the cause is unknown it is called dry AMD. This disease leads to a thinning of the macula, which is the section of the retina at the back of the eye. When optometrists check your eyes during a comprehensive eye exam, they assess the health of the eye, including the macula, through the use of special equipment and eye drops. Since AMD often doesn’t present symptoms until its late stages, having an optometrist perform these tests is the best way to catch AMD early and halt its progression.
Ophthalmoscopy. An ophthalmoscope examines the interior of the eye and is commonly used in every eye exam. This device uses mirrors to reflect light into the eye so that the optometrist or ophthalmologist can see into the eye and examine the retina and macula.
Optical Coherence Tomography. This test, referred to as an OCT, enables the eye doctor to see the back of the eye to inspect the retina, macula, optic nerve, and choroid. An OCT allows the optometrist to see fine detail, including the thickness of the retina or areas of geographic atrophy. These areas of atrophy are typically a result of AMD where the outer retinal tissues become emaciated.
Amsler Grid. This is a simple grid with a black dot in the center. You are meant to look at the dot with one eye covered and tell the optometrist if any of the lines appear warped, blurry, or blank. One of the symptoms of age-related macular degeneration is the bending of straight lines in your vision as well as blurred details or missing spots in your central vision. This test may be performed while pupils are dilated.
Dilated Eye Exam. Dilating, or expanding, the pupils makes it easier for the optometrist to look into your eye and see your macula. Your optometrist will also search for small yellow protein deposits in the retina called drusen, which are easier to view when the pupil is dilated. Your pupils also may be dilated for other tests conducted, such as the ophthalmoscopy, so that the optometrist has an ideal view.
Fundus Autofluorescence Imaging. This non-invasive imaging technique shines a light on the retina that causes certain structures to light up. The structures that do not light up can be identified as atrophied sections, which is an indication of age-related macular degeneration.
Tonometry. This test consists of a small puff of air blown onto the eye with a machine. This puff of air allows the machine to measure pressure within the eye, which does not indicate AMD, but it does help to determine if symptoms or other test results are the result of other eye diseases such as glaucoma.
Fluorescein Angiography. This method involves injecting a special dye into the blood and then using a specific camera to monitor the blood flow in the veins of the eye. If fluorescent patches appear, it is an indicator of leaking blood vessels, a sign of wet AMD.
If you’re 55 or over, schedule a senior's eye exam to be screened for AMD. It is recommended that people aged 19 to 64 see an optometrist every one or two years and everyone over the age of 65 visits every year. If you’ve noticed any changes in your vision, if straight lines appear to curve, central vision is blurry, or you have difficulty seeing in low light, book an appointment with My Optometrist. With several locations including Health First in SE Calgary, Sunridge in NE Calgary, and Three Hills, AB, we can help with all of your eye care needs throughout Calgary and area. To book an appointment with My Optometrist, fill out the online contact form or call the location most convenient for you.
Q: Is age-related macular degeneration curable?
A: No it is not, which is why early diagnosis is key to saving your central vision. There are injections available to cease the progression of wet AMD to the point that it is considered inactive.
Q: Who is most at risk for AMD?
A: Those most at risk:
Even if none of these apply to you, eye exams are important for everyone’s eye health and should be conducted regularly. At My Optometrist, the macula is examined during every eye exam, even when patients are at low risk for AMD.
Q: Is AMD painful?
A: No, AMD does not cause any pain as it progresses which is why many people do not realize they are developing it.
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