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Macular Degeneration

Early detection. Early detection. Early detection.

We can’t say it often enough—early detection is your best defense against vision loss caused by macular degeneration. It takes only two minutes a day to test your eyes for vision changes that may be caused by macular degeneration!

Step 1 - Click the PDF link, print it and tape it up in a well-lit area at eye level. Some people find it most convenient to tape it to a bathroom mirror or position it on the refrigerator door.
Step 2 - Stand approximately 24 inches away from the grid.
Step 3 - If you use reading glasses, put them on.
Step 4 - Cover one eye with your hand.
Step 5 - Focus on the dot at the center of the grid for one full minute.
Step 6 - Repeat the process for the other eye.

If any of the lines on the grid are blurred, wavy, or even missing, call (605) 336-6294 to schedule a “dilated” eye exam.

What is macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration is an eye disease. It occurs in many adults after 50. One or both eyes may be affected. The macula (the part of the eye that controls central, detailed vision) becomes damaged. Central vision becomes limited. However, side vision remains clear. There are two types of macular degeneration: “dry” and “wet.”

Dry Macular Degeneration

Dry is the most common type of macular degeneration. In the early stages, changes in vision may be hard to notice. Over time, your central vision slowly worsens. You may notice wavy lines and blank spots in the center of your vision. Colors may look dim. There is no way to restore vision lost from dry macular degeneration. But you need to monitor it because it can turn into wet macular degeneration.

Wet Macular Degeneration

Wet is less common but more serious. Vision loss is quick and severe. You may suddenly notice dark spots, blank spots, wavy lines, and dim colors in the center of your vision. If wet macular degeneration is caught early, laser treatment may help slow further vision loss.

Working with Your Doctor

Even if you have macular degeneration, the good news is that this disease doesn’t cause total blindness. To make the most of your vision, get regular eye exams and monitor your vision.

During your eye exams, your doctor may:

  • Check your vision
  • Use special instruments to view the inside of your eyes
  • Use a special dye to create pictures (angiograms) of the inside of your eyes
  • Show you how to watch for vision changes using an Amsler grid
  • Ask your doctor about new treatments. Taking vitamins, quitting smoking, and avoiding ultraviolet light, especially sunlight, may also help keep this disease from getting worse.
  • Monitor Vision Loss

Sudden vision changes may be a sign of wet macular degeneration. That’s why you need to monitor your vision with an Amsler grid. Follow these steps as often as suggested by your doctor:

  1. Keep the grid at eye level and stand 14 inches away.
  2. If you wear glasses for reading, put them on. Cover or close one eye. Focus on the black dot in the center of the grid.
  3. On the grid, mark any vision changes from the day before. This may include black spots or wavy lines that weren’t there before.
  4. Repeat these steps with the other eye.

Call your doctor right away if you notice any changes

Dealing with Vision Loss

  • Magnifiers and closed-circuit television devices
  • Check-writing guides and large-print checks
  • Large-faced watches and phones
  • Books with large type and books on tape
  • Talking clocks and other talking devices

It’s up to you!

If you have macular degeneration, use an Amsler grid to check your vision. If your vision changes suddenly, see your eye doctor right away.

Finding Vision Aids

Ask your doctor about low-vision resources. The groups below can also provide information about vision aids:


National Federation of the Blind
410-659-9314

The Lighthouse
1-800-829-0500

National Association for the Visually Handicapped
Eastern 212-889-3141
Western 415-221-3201