In-Home Tests For Macular Degeneration

In-Home Tests For Macular Degeneration

Now that you can practically do anything from your smartphone, tablet, or computer you can also home test for macular degeneration, one of the most dangerous eye diseases known today. Actually, you don’t even need a digital device as there are some easy manual testing applications as well. Either way, catching the potentially slow progression of macular degeneration, which robs millions of their eyesight every year, could be the best thing you can do for your vision.  

All About Vision reported that, 

“According to a recent study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 6.5 percent of Americans age 40 and older have some degree of macular degeneration. Other research suggests there were 9.1 million cases of early AMD in the US in 2010 and this number is expected to increase to 17.8 million by the year 2050.”

When the small center part of the retina known as the macula is deteriorated, your visual acuity can slowly suffer. Over time, watching television, recognizing faces, working on a computer, and navigating fine details could become compromised. These are some symptoms of macular degeneration. By home testing your vision you may be able to seek treatment to slow down or, as medicine advances, stop macular degeneration in its tracks altogether. 

Amsler Grid

Developed by Marc Amsler, a Swiss ophthalmologist, the Amsler grid identifies a person’s central vision strength. Because macular degeneration directly affects the central vision field, the Amsler grid has been the go-to test since 1945. What you see when you look at this grid determines any visual disturbances that an otherwise healthy person would not experience. 

How To Do The Amsler Grid Test

It is easy and fast when testing your eyes with an Amsler grid. All About Vision describes how to navigate this simple test.

Here are the basic steps:

  • Test your eyes under normal room lighting used for reading
  • Wear eyeglasses you normally wear for reading (even store-bought reading glasses)
  • Hold the Amsler grid approximately 14 to 16 inches from your eyes (can be done on a computer screen, just adjust your distance accordingly)
  • Test each eye separately: Cup your hand over one eye while testing the other eye
  • Keep your eye focused on the dot in the center of the grid (do not look away) and answer these questions:
  • Do any of the lines in the grid appear wavy, blurred or distorted?
  • Do all the boxes in the grid look square and the same size?
  • Are there any “holes” (missing areas) or dark areas in the grid?
  • Can you see all corners and sides of the grid (while keeping your eye on the central dot)?
  • Switch to the other eye and repeat

IMPORTANT — Report any irregularities to your eye doctor immediately. Mark areas of the Amsler grid that you’re not seeing properly (print two grids if you notice problems in each eye), and bring the grid(s) with you when you visit your eye doctor. Check your eyes with the Amsler grid as frequently as your doctor recommends, or whenever you notice a significant change in your eyesight.

Macular Computerized Psychophysical Test (MCPT)

The MCPT was studied about 16 years ago as an alternate to using the Amsler grid. In a study published in the June 2013 in the journal, Ophthalmology, MCPT is described as, 

“a virtual line composed of dots (white dots on a black background, maximal contrast) is flashed across different macular loci to a perifoveal [region in the retina that circumscribes the macula]. Patients’ responses were recorded and automatically analyzed using a specific algorithm developed before the onset of the study.”

Researchers from the Department of Ophthalmology, Tel-Aviv Medical Center, Tel-Aviv, Israel reported findings of an MCPT study concluding that, 

“The MCPT was superior to the Amsler grid in detecting AMD-related lesions in this cohort. Studies are underway to determine whether the MCPT is feasible for home monitoring to provide early detection of progression to CNV [choroidal neovascularization – growth of new blood vessels]”

Detection Devices

For specific candidates there are some detection devices on the market that you could use at home. These devices enable continuous monitoring of your retina to determine any abnormal developments that may occur. 

One in-home macular degeneration monitoring device is from Notal Vision named the ForeseeHome® AMD Monitoring Program. Working with Optical coherence tomography (OCT) it is a once per day detection device that takes just a few minutes to complete. OCT has been used by practitioners since the early 2000’s however this is one of the first in-home applications. It uses a special formula called the Notal OCT Analyzer (NOA) which, as described by Notal, “is a computational image analysis algorithm designed to provide automated detection of pathological fluid in exudative retinal diseases including wet age-related macular degeneration, macular edema, and retinal vein occlusions.”

Healthy sight or tiny changes in your vision are recorded each day when you log into the monitoring program device. This data is sent to your doctor once per month. If your doctor wants earlier access to the data it can be retrieved 24/7. If the device detects a significant change, your doctor will automatically be alerted right away. 

According to Notal Vision,

“Early detection is the best way to catch the progression from dry AMD to wet AMD. Patients using ForeseeHome had a 94% rate of preserving driving vision (20/40 or better) at wet AMD diagnosis compared to 62% with standard methods of detection alone…Between office visits, patients can experience a recurrence of fluid, which is identified and treated at their next appointment. Monitoring at home for the presence of fluid can reduce the time from fluid recurrence to treatment by providing the doctor with an immediate notification of the change.”

In-home tests for macular degeneration are a small example of what is just around the corner when it comes to the rise of precision medicine. One of the most successful applications of many of these new technologies is for perpetuating healthy vision. As insurance rates rise and practitioners dwindle more in-home devices will be used. When it comes to slowing macular degeneration, daily in-home testing could save millions from going blind, including you. Talk to your doctor about the best way you can start home testing your vision to maintain healthy sight as long as you can.