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Macular Degeneration Diagnosis

Macular Degeneration Diagnosis
Macular Degeneration
Causes and Risk Factors

Regular comprehensive eye exams can detect macular degeneration before the disease causes vision loss. Generally, an eye care professional may suspect age related macular degeneration (AMD) as a diagnosis for eye problems if you are over age 60 and have had recent changes in your central vision. Since early signs of AMD may go unnoticed, the best way to detect AMD is with frequent, thorough eye examinations before symptoms present.

Although they do not test vision for prescribing glasses or contact lenses, family practitioners or general internists may medically treat some types of eye conditions. But generally speaking, when you schedule a visit with an eye care specialist, you can choose an ophthalmologist, and osteopathic physician (D.O.), or an optometrist. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors (M.D.) who specialize in comprehensive eye care and provides examinations, diagnosis, and treatment for a variety of eye disorders. Optometrists are doctors of optometry (O.D.) but not a medical doctor. Optometrists can examine, diagnose and manage many visual problems and eye disease, and are specially trained to test vision in order to prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Medical history
Before you go in for an examination with an ophthalmologist, be prepared to describe the vision problems you are experiencing. It might be helpful to make a list of the following:

  • eye injuries or eye surgeries (approximate dates, hospitals, surgeons, etc.)
  • general health condition (allergies, chronic health problems, operations, etc.)
  • family history of eye problems (glaucoma, cataracts, etc.)
  • signs or symptoms of eye problems (flashes of light, difficulty seeing at night, temporary double vision, loss of vision, etc.)
  • prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs
  • questions you have about your vision

As you schedule your appointment, ask if you will be able to drive yourself home after the eye exam, and whether or not the eye examination will temporarily affect vision. The day you are to visit the eye doctor, take along your glasses/contact lenses and the lists that you have prepared.

Medical exams
To look for signs of macular degeneration disease, eye doctors attempt to learn more about the structure and health of your eye. Many times, an ophthalmologist will use eye drops to dilate, or enlarge, your pupils. Dilating the pupils allows eye care professional to view the back of the eye better. After the exam, your close-up vision may remain blurred for several hours and you might be sensitive to light as the pupil which is dilated controls the amount of light that enters the eye. AMD is detected during a comprehensive eye exam that may include the following tests:

Amsler grid test - during this eye exam, patterns of a grid resemble a checkerboard. You will be asked to cover one eye and stare at a black dot in the center of the grid. While staring at the dot, if straight lines appear wavy or if some of the lines are missing, these may be signs of AMD.

Dilated eye exam - after eye drops widen the pupils, doctors use a special magnifying lens to examine the retina and optic nerve for signs of AMD and other eye problems.

Fluorescein angiography - used if wet AMD is suspected, ,a special dye is injected into a vein in the arm. Pictures are taken as the dye passes through the blood vessels in the retina, which help eye care professional examine leaking blood vessels and decide if they can be treated.

Visual acuity test - an eye chart test that measures how well you see at various distances.

Tonometry - an instrument that measures pressure inside the eye.

Remember that AMD can only be properly diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination and in some cases, more specialized tests.   If you exhibit any signs or symptoms that you suspect might be due to macular degeneration, please see your doctor as soon as possible. In the next section, we'll discuss new macular degeneration treatment. Continue reading to learn more.

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