Amsler Grid Test: Screening for AMD

Dr. Russel Lazarus, July 22, 2020

Early detection of eye disease is crucial when it comes to protecting your eye health and vision. 

Macular degeneration (AMD) is the number one cause of low vision, and accounts for more than 8% of worldwide blindness.

While there is no known cure for AMD, early detection can help you get the treatment you need to slow down the progression of the disease and preserve your existing vision.

Guide to macular degeneration tests

If you notice any changes in your vision, consult with your eye doctor as soon as possible.

Your eye doctor will examine your eyes to identify any changes and conduct a series of tests to ensure that your vision hasn’t been affected.

During your eye exam, your eye doctor may perform and of the following tests:

What is the Amsler grid?

The Amsler grid is a tool that is used by eye doctors to help detect early signs of retinal disease such as macular degeneration, and monitor disease progression and any visual changes that develop.

This article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. 

Why use the Amsler Grid?

If you have been diagnosed with dry AMD, it is important to monitor your vision on a weekly basis to detect visual changes and progression of the disease to wet AMD. Regular monitoring of your vision will enable early detection and early treatment of the disease, before significant vision loss can occur.

The Amsler grid can also be used by patients at home, to keep track of any new changes in their vision, such as wavy lines or blind spots.

You can find the Amsler grid below, or you can ask your eye doctor for a copy of the grid at your next appointment.

How does the Amsler grid work?

The Amsler grid looks like graph paper— typically containing black lines on a white background, though sometimes many contain white lines on a black background. In the center of the grid, there is a small dot, used as a focus point.

Testing your vision using the Amsler grid is simple to do. Before beginning the test at home, it is recommended to obtain a baseline of your vision during an eye exam, so you can easily monitor any changes to your vision.

Follow these instructions on how to use the Amsler grid for the most effective results:

  1. Test in a room with normal lighting, that allows for easy reading.
  2. Wear reading glasses, contacts, or any other prescribed eyewear.
  3. Hold the Amsler grid at a distance that enables all grid lines to be in-focus, approximately 14 to 16 inches from your face.
  4. Test each eye separately, covering one eye with your hand while testing the other eye.
  5. Focus on the dot in the center of the grid while you answer these questions:
    • Are any of the grid lines wavy, blurry or distorted?
    • Are all of the boxes in the grid square and consistently size?
    • Are there any darker areas on the grid?
    • Are there any missing areas on the grid?
    • Can you see all sides and corners of the grid?
  6. Repeat the test with the other eye.

It is recommended to test your vision using the Amsler grid as recommended by your eye doctor. For a constant reminder, hang it in a visible area, such as your refrigerator or front door.

If you suspect you have macular degeneration, contact an eye doctor near you, who can diagnose and treat the condition.

SEE RELATED: What is Macular Degeneration?

Find an eye doctor near you

Interpreting the amsler grid

Did you see wavy lines?

This visual distortion may indicate the presence of drusen, or small, yellow, deposits of fatty proteins that form under the retina, causing visual distortions. This is typically for wet AMD.

Did you see any missing or darkened areas on the grid?

This generally occurs in patients with wet AMD, and may be caused by fluid that has accumulated underneath the retina, forming a blister, and causing blind spots in or around the center of your visual field.

What to do if you notice any visual changes

If you notice any visual distortions or changes in your vision, consult with an eye doctor immediately— even if you had an eye exam recently. 

Mark the areas on the grid where you noticed any distortions to show your eye doctor. Early diagnosis of ocular disease and prompt treatment is crucial with vision-threatening conditions such as AMD.

LEARN MORE:  Guide to Eye Conditions

Schedule an appointment with an eye doctor for a comprehensive macular eye exam, and to discuss any questions you may have about treating your eye condition.

If you have been diagnosed with dry AMD, vision changes can develop slowly over a period of time— and may not be obvious or even noticeable.

Using the Amsler grid, you can check your vision anytime you’d like from the comfort of your own home.

This quick and easy to use test will facilitate earlier detection of disease progression, and earlier treatment— enabling you to preserve your vision and quality of life.