A woman squeezes her eyes shut and puts up a hand to obscure the view of an Amsler Grid magnet on the refrigerator that she is walking by. That magnet is surrounded by other magnets in the shapes of US states.

Using (or Avoiding) My Amsler Grid

When we travel, I generally buy at least one refrigerator magnet. The front - and side! - of the fridge is pretty much covered. There is, however, at least one magnet up there that is not a memento of a great trip.

My Amsler grid

The magnet I am talking about is my Amsler’s grid and I have a confession to make about it: I am a very bad person (so what else is new?)... I cannot tell you the last time I used it.

I got my Amsler grid five years ago when my second eye went to merry Hell. Or at least I think that was when I got it. Five years is sort of a long time. I was told to use it to check on the progress of my vision loss. I was to look for blind spots and for wiggly lines. The wiggly lines were supposed to be a little more concerning because of that phenomenon’s association with wet AMD.

At first, I was very strict. If just looking at the grid could have worn it out, it would be long gone!

Understanding my diagnosis

However, I eventually got laxer about it. For one reason, I had been told the chances of my developing wet AMD were pretty slim. My understanding of the function of growing extra blood vessels - and remember I could easily be wrong - is to try to bring oxygen and nutrients to the retinal pigment epithelial. Sort of a rescue mission. My RPEs were gone. There were very few left to call for rescue.

Participating in a clinical study

Also, for the past two years I have been participating in a study. Every month for the last two years I have heard a good doctor dictate a note saying there is no evidence of conversion. In other words, my dry AMD shows no indication it is going to become wet.

Avoiding an obsession with an Amsler grid

And, truthfully, there is one, more, bigger reason: I hate to obsess on something that is wrong. That is especially true when that something that is wrong cannot be fixed. Checking that grid daily or weakly was affecting my quality of life. It caused anxiety and worry I did not need one little bit!

Plotting my scotoma

One thing I did with the Amsler’s grid was plot my scotoma. Scotomata is the plural of scotoma, a blind spot. Run off a paper grid, take a pencil, and outline where you cannot see. It is not only an interesting “scientific experiment” - and, yes, I can be geekishly weird- but it also gives you a good idea where you can try eccentric viewing by showing you intact pieces of retina that can become your “sweet spots”.

Do as I say, not as I do...

Growing up, I heard my father say “do as I say, not as I do” so I will tell you here, if you have been told by your doctor to use an Amsler grid, please do so. Don’t follow my lead in being a scofflaw. Just try not to get obsessed with the thing and your vision loss. There is a happy medium.

Using an Amsler grid

If you have never been told how to use an Amsler grid, Kristen Boyd, writing for the American Academy of Ophthalmologists, has a nice article entitled Have AMD? Save Your Sight with an Amsler Grid. Boyd offers both written instructions and a short video as well as an example of a grid.

Editor's Note: Find a printable copy of an Amsler grid and learn more about vision testing in the article Vision Tests: Vision Acuity Test and Amsler Grid.

Forgotten

My grid hangs on the fridge, sort of forgotten. I have my reasons but that does not mean they could be acceptable reasons for you. Remember my Dad's admonition: do as I say, not as I do.

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