Diagnosing and Treating Macular Degeneration

Eye doctors diagnose macular degeneration during a comprehensive eye examination. An optometrist or ophthalmologist can make a precise diagnosis through a combination of clinical examination and specific tests. These include optical coherence tomography, angiography, and retinal photography. If you notice any change in your central vision, you need to go for a checkup by an ophthalmologist. This doctor specializes in the prevention of eye injury and disease.


Eye Examination to Check for Macular Degeneration


To diagnose this condition, an optometrist or ophthalmologist will give you a comprehensive eye exam. He or she will dilate your eyes to get a magnified view of the macula. Studying the structures of your eyes, including the macula, will help your eye doctor make an accurate diagnosis. The eye examination may include the following tests:


Dilated Eye Exam


An optometrist or ophthalmologist will use eye drops to dilate your pupils. This will help him or her have a better view of the back of your retina. It will also make it possible for him or her to check the back of your eyes for signs of eye disease, such as optic and retinal nerve disease damage.




This test measures the pressure inside your eyes. Too much pressure can damage the delicate nerve fibers located in the back of the eye. Left unaddressed, it can lead to blindness. Eye doctors do not directly relate high eye pressure to macular degeneration. However, they still perform this test to rule out other conditions, such as glaucoma. This helps them determine whether vision loss is a result of a disease of the macular or a condition in any other parts of the eye.


Fluorescein Angiography


During this procedure, eye doctors inject a special dye into their patients’ bloodstream. They then photograph the dye’s circulation within the eye and check for fluorescent patches. If any such patches appear, they may suspect the possibility of leaking blood vessels in the patient’s retina.




This procedure uses an instrument known as an ophthalmoscope. Eye doctors use it to examine the interior structure of the eye, including the retina. This instrument consists of a mirror designed to reflect light into the eye. The doctor then examines the eye through a central hole, which allows him or her to determine whether there are any changes or damage to the macula and retina.


Optical Coherence Tomography


Also known as OCT, this eye test allows ophthalmologists and optometrists to take an image of the back of the eye. This includes the choroid, retina, optic nerve, and macula. This test can help identify areas of your retina that are thinning, which is an indication of geographic atrophy. This test shows changes in the retina much better than any other instrument.


Treating Macular Degeneration


Treatment may slow down the condition. It may also keep patients from losing too much of their vision. Common treatments for this condition include:


  • Laser therapy to destroy abnormal blood vessels in the eye.

  • Anti-angiogenesis drugs to block the formation of blood vessels, in addition to blocking leakage from blood vessels.

  • Use of low vision aids to create larger images of nearby objects.

  • Retinal translocation to destroy abnormal blood vessels under the macula.

  • Sub-macular surgery to remove abnormal blood and blood vessels.

  • Photodynamic laser therapy.


Learn more about how to diagnose macular degeneration & available treatments, contact EyeCare Center of Snohomish in Snohomish, WA at (360) 568-6666.

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