Macular Degeneration

  • Medical Author:
    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, FACS

    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist. Dr. Dahl's educational background includes a BA with Honors and Distinction from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, and an MD from Cornell University, where he was selected for Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society. He had an internal medical internship at the New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What are signs of macular degeneration?

In both dry and wet forms of macular degeneration, the ophthalmologist may find decreased visual clarity (acuity) with preservation of peripheral vision and changes in the central retina visible with the ophthalmoscope.

What type of specialist treats macular degeneration?

The diagnosis of macular degeneration can be made by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who has specialized in the diagnosis and medical/surgical treatment of eye disease. In order to diagnose macular degeneration, the pupils are dilated with eyedrops so that the retina can be clearly seen. Once the diagnosis of macular degeneration is made, distinguishing between the dry or wet variety can be made by any ophthalmologist. If you are found to have wet macular degeneration, you may be referred to an ophthalmologist specializing in vitreo-retinal diseases. The majority of patients in the United States who are being treated with intravitreal injections for wet AMD are cared for by vitreo-retinal subspecialists.

How do health-care professionals diagnose macular degeneration?

Your ophthalmologist may suspect the diagnosis of AMD if you are over age 60 and have had recent changes in your central vision. To look for signs of the disease, he or she will use eyedrops to dilate, or enlarge, your pupils. Dilating the pupils allows your ophthalmologist to view the back of the eye better.

Early AMD is often diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam in patients without significant symptoms. This eye exam includes having drops placed in your eyes to enlarge, or dilate, the pupils. Your ophthalmologist will carefully examine the central portion of the retina to determine the presence or absence of AMD using various illuminating and magnifying devices.

During the eye exam, you may be asked to look at a checkerboard pattern called an Amsler grid. When looking at an Amsler grid with one eye, patients with AMD may notice that the straight lines of the checkerboard appear wavy or are missing.

Other diagnostic tests that your ophthalmologist may perform include retinal photography, fluorescein angiography and optical coherence tomography. All of these can help to differentiate between dry and wet forms of AMD and also document the abnormalities so that progression and response to treatment can be better measured.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/6/2016

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