How Is AMD Diagnosed?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | December 2018

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common condition that is one of the main causes of vision loss in people over the age of 50.1 The progression of damage to the macula and loss of central vision varies by individual. In some people, the condition progresses slowly, while others experience rapid vision loss. AMD can occur in one or both eyes and each eye may be in a different stage.

AMD signs

While there may not be obvious or visible symptoms during the early or intermediate stages, there are certain markers that can be seen in a comprehensive exam as the condition progresses:


  • Early AMD: Many small or few medium-sized drusen (yellowish deposits under the retina) are present. They are approximately the width of a human hair.1
  • Intermediate AMD: Many medium or at least one large drusen is present and/or there are pigmentary changes of the retina.
  • Advanced AMD (Geographic atrophy): Vision loss is usually reported at this stage. There is breakdown of the retinal pigment epithelium (supporting cells of the retina) and retinal photoreceptors (light sensing cells) in the macula, leading to decreased central vision.1


  • Advanced AMD Neovascular AMD): Vision loss is usually reported. There is growth of abnormal blood vessels under the retina, which can leak or bleed, damaging retinal photoreceptors in the macula.1

Diagnosis of AMD

Diagnosis of AMD can be made through a comprehensive eye exam and a variety of tests. These tests include a dilated eye exam, a visual acuity test, and an Amsler grid.2 More invasive tests are sometimes done, but they are not typically the first-line in diagnosis.

Diagnosis and treatment options

An important factor in determining treatment options is early diagnosis and accurate diagnosis. Especially since early and intermediate AMD might not present with symptoms, early diagnosis can be beneficial in providing you with information to make lifestyle changes that can help reduce the risk of progression or slow progression to late-stage AMD.

What are your options?

If you get a diagnosis of AMD, there are treatments available for intermediate and late AMD. If you have early AMD, there are lifestyle changes and other steps you can take to preserve your existing vision and preserve your eye health, as well as potentially slow the progression of the disease. Talk with your doctor about what your diagnosis means and what you can do to preserve your vision.

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