Can Optometrists Diagnose Macular Degeneration?

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can an optometrist diagnose macular degeneration

Yes, optometrists can find out if someone has macular degeneration. They check for signs of this eye problem during thorough eye exams. They look at the macula, check the retina, and do other tests to see if there are any issues.

We’ll discuss these topics in this blog:

What is macular degeneration? 

Macular degeneration is a big reason why older adults might have trouble seeing. It’s also called age-related macular degeneration, or AMD. This happens when the center part of your eye, called the macula, gets thinner as you get older. AMD can make it hard to do everyday things like reading, driving, or recognizing faces, which can make life less enjoyable.

AMD usually only messes with your central vision, leaving your side vision fine. About 8% of people worldwide have symptoms of AMD, and around 11 million Americans have it.

There are two types of AMD: Dry AMD & Wet AMD 

Dry AMD makes your central vision blurry or not as clear. It happens because the macula gets thinner over time. Dry AMD can start in one eye

and later affect the other. How bad your vision gets can vary from person to person.

If you catch it early, you can slow down vision loss with help from eye doctors at CHROMA Modern Eyewear Eyecare. Dry AMD often doesn’t cause many symptoms until it’s more advanced, but you might notice things like

  • Things look funny or bent
  • Not seeing things clearly in the center of your vision
  • I need more light to see well
  • Having trouble seeing in dim light
  • Words look blurry when you read them.
  • Colors are not as bright
  • Struggling to recognize faces
  • Having a blurry or blank spot in your vision

Wet AMD happens after dry AMD. About 20% of people with AMD have this type. It happens because of weird blood vessels or fluid in the eye.

The blood vessels near the macula can grow the wrong way. Sometimes they can break and leak fluid into the macula, messing up your vision.

If fluid leaks from your eye, it can gather in the retina, making a bump in the macula. This can mess up your vision, making things look weird or blurry.

Wet AMD can be an eye emergency. If you suddenly can’t see well in the center or lose the ability to see colors or fine details, go see the eye doctors at CHROMA right away.

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What causes macular degeneration? 

If you’re 55 or older, you’re more likely to get AMD. But other stuff can up your chances too, like:

  • Your family history
  • Your genes
  • How you live your life

If you smoke or someone in your family has AMD, make sure to get your eyes checked every year. The eye doctors at CHROMA Modern Eyewear Eyecare can check if you have AMD or suggest ways to lower your chances.

Regular exercise, quitting smoking, and eating well can help lower your chances of getting AMD.

Optometrists and macular degeneration

Optometrists are eye doctors who are important for keeping your eyes healthy. They’re the ones who check your eyes for problems.

When you go for an eye checkup, they might do something called a dilated eye exam. This means they put special drops in your eyes to make them bigger so they can see inside better. With this exam, they can find common eye problems like AMD.

If the optometrist thinks you might have AMD, they might do more tests to be sure and see how bad it is. Sometimes they can do these tests right in their office, but sometimes they’ll send you to another eye doctor called an ophthalmologist for more tests and treatment.

It’s a good idea for everyone, especially older folks, to get their eyes checked regularly by an optometrist. As you get older, problems like AMD can happen more often. Experts say if you’re 65 or older, you should get your eyes checked every year to keep them healthy. Sometimes the optometrist might suggest how often you need to go for checkups.

What are the most common ways to diagnose macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration is when the part of your eye that helps you see starts to get damaged. It often happens as you get older and can make the middle of your vision blurry or disappear.

When you go for your regular eye checkup, the eye doctor might use special drops to make your pupils bigger. This helps them see the back of your eye better.

They’ll look for problems like macular degeneration during this checkup. If they think you might have it, they might do more tests to be sure. Some eye doctors have fancy tools, like OCT machines, to help them see inside your eye better and figure out how bad the problem is.

If they can’t handle everything, they might send you to another eye doctor, called an ophthalmologist, for more tests and treatment.

Treating Macular Degeneration

While there’s no cure for AMD yet, there are ways to manage it and slow down vision loss. Researchers are still looking into new treatments that optometrists might use in the future.

Dry AMD Treatment

In the early stages, there’s usually little that can be done for dry AMD. However, your eye doctor can monitor your eye health and suggest changes to your diet or exercise routine.

As dry AMD gets worse, your eye doctor might suggest taking special vitamins and minerals called AREDS 2 supplements. These can help slow down the disease. They contain things like vitamin C, vitamin E, copper, zinc, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

Wet AMD Treatment

If you have wet AMD, there are ways to stop your vision from getting worse. Your eye doctor might suggest getting injections or a treatment called photodynamic therapy (PDT).

Injections called anti-VEGF injections can help by reducing bleeding and fluid leaking from blood vessels in your eye. Your eye will be numbed, and then the doctor will use a tiny needle to inject the medicine. Usually, you’ll need these injections every month.

PDT involves injections and laser therapy. The doctor uses a medicine called verteporfin that reacts to a laser. They inject the medicine into your arm, numb your eye, and then shine the laser on it to treat abnormal blood vessels.


Q1. Can optometrists see macular degeneration?

A1. It is possible to detect signs of macular degeneration by detecting drusen (deposits of cell waste under the retina) and by changes in pigmentation in the macula during a dilated eye examination that uses drops to force the pupil to stay open.

Q2. Is macular degeneration detected in a regular eye exam?

A2. Symptoms, past eye problems, and other health conditions can be used to diagnose age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Your doctor may test your vision to identify the condition.

Q3. What does vision look like with macular degeneration?

A3. Your vision is not clear. It’s like things are a bit blurry or fuzzy. It’s hard to recognize people’s faces, even if they are familiar to you. When you look at straight lines, they seem to be wavy instead of straight. Also, there’s a dark or empty spot in the middle of what you see.

Q4. Can an optometrist diagnose retinal disease?

A4. Your eye doctor can find out if you have retinal detachment by doing a special eye exam where they widen your pupil. They’ll check if there’s too much fluid in the back of your eye and if your retina has come loose.

Q5. How do your eyes feel with macular degeneration?

A5. In early dry AMD, there are usually no symptoms. Some may experience mild blurriness or trouble seeing in dim light in the intermediate stage. In late AMD, straight lines may appear wavy or crooked.