Taking tests is never fun, although there’s one test you might want to consider taking on a regular basis – a quick and easy evaluation that could potentially save your eyesight.
When it comes to our health, early detection is always the most effective way to prevent harm caused by disease. And what better way to stay on top of your eye health, than by doing a super quick self-assessment using an Amsler Grid!
What is it?
Developed in 1945 by Swiss ophthalmologist Marc Amsler, the Amsler Grid is a unique diagnostic tool used to effectively monitor our central visual field. While it might look basic – black horizontal and vertical lines drawn on a white background – its primary purpose is to help detect visual disturbances caused by changes in the retina, like age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).
The best part? The grid can be used in the comfort of your home, with no professionals or equipment needed. While not overly tedious to do, it’s generally recommended that those who have existing macular degeneration should monitor their vision daily with an Amsler grid. That way, if your condition worsens, treatment can be started immediately.
Why do we use the Amsler Grid?
As with many diseases, treatments for macular degeneration are more effective when started soon after disease progression occurs. Without early detection and treatment, wet ARMD can lead to the development of retinal scarring and ultimately irreversible vision loss. The Amsler Grid is a fantastic tool for detecting the progression of dry ARMD to the wet form of the disease at an early, treatable stage.
But that’s not all it can do. In addition to ARMD, the list of other diseases that may be monitored with an Amsler grid include Epiretinal membrane, diabetic maculopathy and more. While not without its limitations, the Amsler Grid is a valuable and effective tool that anyone can use – offering a means for early detection, particularly for those at risk of developing ARMD.
How to use it
Using an Amsler Grid isn’t rocket science, in fact, it’s an incredibly quick and easy way to keep track of your vision and identify any potential changes. To take the test, look with each eye separately at the small dot in the centre of the grid. In short – those who have macular disease are likely to see wavy or missing lines.
If you’re using one for the first time, here’s a step-by-step guide for getting the best results:
- If you usually wear reading glasses, keep these on for the test
- Stand roughly 35-40cms away from the grid
- Cover one eye at a time, and test each eye individually
- Stare at the dot in the centre without letting your eyes drift to any other part of the grid. Take note of the following:
- Can you see the entire grid (e.g. all corners and sides)?
- Do any of the lines appear blurry or disappear?
- Do you see any holes or dark spots on the grid?
- Are all boxes appearing the same size?
Dr Smallcombe’s tips for using an Amsler Grid
- If you’re over 50 years old, test for macula degeneration by using an Amsler Grid at least once a week. If you already have diagnosed ARMD, you should be testing yourself daily
- Place your Amsler Grid in a prominent position in your home to help you remember to use it
- Contact your eye doctor immediately if straight lines are appearing wavy or bent, boxes differ in size or shape from others, or if any lines are distorted, missing or discoloured
- Using this chart should never replace regular visits to your eye doctor, but rather used in addition to your medical care routine
- To help report back to your eye health practitioner, mark on the grid which parts you’re not seeing properly (and for which eye) and take this with you to your next appointment
- If you ever notice changes to your vision, check your eyes with the Amsler Grid; however it should not be relied upon for a medical diagnosis – leave this to your eye doctor!
- You can order a free Macular Degeneration information kit and magnetised Amsler Grids from Macular Disease Foundation Australia. Call their free Helpline on 1800 111 709 or visit https://www.mdfoundation.com.au/content/testing-amsler-grid#sthash.X9eobXIL.dpuf.
So what’s the bottom line? The Amsler Grid is a simple, pain-free and low-cost way to detect early signs of ARMD. Early detection is so important, so don’t risk it. Download a grid and get testing today!
Want more information about maintaining your macular health? Check out our other articles in the KindSIGHT blog.