Age-Related Macular Degeneration & the Amsler Grid

For those of us fortunate enough to have decent vision, the thought of losing it is a frightening prospect. While I’m not here to frighten you, the statistics for senior eye health are staggering: 15 million Americans have age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of blindness in people older than 65.[1] Almost 25% of seniors will develop some form of AMD at some point in their lives. [2]

Age-related macular degeneration is a disease that manifests at the back of the eye in a place called the macula, which is the central part of the retina. Two forms of AMD exist, dry and wet. Dry AMD is essentially the wasting away of tissues under the retina. When this happens, the light that comes into the eye is not transmitted to the brain. Wet AMD occurs when there is abnormal blood vessel growth under the retina leading to the accumulation of fluid or bleeding under the retina.

What does all of this medical terminology mean? AMD can cause the central part of one’s vision to become blocked, resulting in the blurring or distortion of your sight. Most importantly, AMD can ultimately affect your ability to do everyday tasks like reading, writing, driving or recognizing colors.

Prevent Blindness America recommends that people older than 65 have a comprehensive eye examination every one to two years or as recommended by their eye doctors. In the meantime, many physicians ask their patients to monitor their own central vision with the Amsler Grid, which can detect early or subtle changes due to this degenerative process.

The grid, a small square with horizontal and vertical lines and a dot in the middle, is easy to use...and free!

First, print your free Amsler Grid, and follow these simple steps:

  1. Hang the grid on a bare wall in a well-lighted room, but away from any glare. The center dot should be at eye level.
  2. Mark a spot on the floor 14 inches away from the wall.
  3. Stand facing the wall with your heels on the tape marker.
    4. Wear the glasses or contact lenses that you normally wear for reading.
  4. Look at the dot in the center of the grid.
  5. Cover your left eye with a paper cup and continue looking at the dot. You should see all four corners of the grid.
  6. If any area of the grid pattern appears wavy, blurred or blank while you are looking at the dot, make a mental note.
  7. Repeat this check, covering your right eye this time.

Any blurred or wavy lines in the appearance of the Amsler Grid pattern may indicate AMD.

So, I urge you to take the test, sight unseen!—

Ami Icanberry

[1] Barg, Gary. Seeing Clearly. Today’s Caregiver. December 2006.

[2] Ibid.