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Diagnosis of Macular Degeneration

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:


Diagnosis of Macular Degeneration

The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical and eye exam will be done. The doctor may suspect macular degeneration—if the person is older and has changes in central vision. An ophthalmologist can diagnose the condition.

To make the diagnosis, eye tests will be done, such as:

Visual acuity test —This eye chart test measures how well a person sees at various distances.

Pupil dilation —Eye drops will be placed in eyes to dilate, or enlarge, the pupils. This helps the doctor view the back of the eye. A common early sign of adult macular degeneration is drusen. Drusen are tiny yellow deposits in the retina. The doctor can see them during an eye exam. Drusen alone does not mean a person has macular degeneration. But it might mean that the eye is at risk for developing it.

The doctor will also look for color changes, macular damage, and new blood vessels.

Amsler grid —The person may be asked to view an Amsler grid. This grid is a pattern that looks like a checkerboard. This can test for changes in central vision. The person will be asked to cover one eye and stare at a black dot in the center of the grid. While staring at the dot, the person may notice that straight lines in the pattern appear wavy. Some of the lines may also look missing, which shows a loss of central vision. These may be signs of macular degeneration.

Optical coherence tomography—The doctor will use a special machine to take pictures of the inside of the eye.

Fluorescein angiography —A special dye is injected by IV. Pictures are then taken as the dye passes through the blood vessels in the retina. The doctor looks for leaking blood vessels to see if they can be treated.


  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/age-related-macular-degeneration-amd.
  • Age-related macular degeneration. National Eye Institute (NEI) website. Available at:https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/age-related-macular-degeneration.


  • Mark Arredondo, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.