Macular Degeneration - Standard Tests to Expect With Your Ophthalmologist

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Dr. David Maberley, MD, MSc. (Epid), FRCSC, Ophthalmologist, discusses macular degeneration risk factors and routine tests patients can expect.

Dr. David Maberley, MD, MSc. (Epid), FRCSC, Ophthalmologist, discusses macular degeneration risk factors and routine tests patients can expect.

Video transcript

Featuring Dr. David Maberley, MD, MSc (Epid), FRCSC, Ophthalmologist

Duration: 3 minutes, 1 second

Macular degeneration is primarily a genetic disease, and this is information we didn’t have ten, 15 years ago. But much of the macular degeneration we see has already been pre-programmed at the time of your birth, so there’s not a whole lot you can do about it.

There is information that the genes that cause macular degeneration may be somewhat modified by behavioral activity such as smoking, so that your risk can be elevated for certain types of gene problems if you’re a smoker, and possibly even if you have a lot of exposure to sunlight or UV rays.

So those are some things we have to be cognizant of. And there can be testing done for the genetic risk factors for macular degeneration if you have a strong family history of macular degeneration and want that information.

Ultimately, you will go to your ophthalmologist and have an assessment for macular degeneration, and this will involve getting your pupils dilated with dilating drops.

So make sure you have someone to drive you home after your assessment. You may want to bring sun glasses with you as well so that it’s not too uncomfortable after your examination.

And what will happen is you’ll sit at a microscope and your eyes will be carefully examined by the ophthalmologist looking for areas of change in your macula or hemorrhaging or anything that might be a concern for macular degeneration.

And then based on what’s found, there’s a couple of different tests that are done to confirm the diagnosis. The most common test and the traditional test, is called a fluorescein angiogram.

And what happens there is you get a dye injection in your arm, and photographs are taken of your eye for about five to ten minutes to document the blood flow in the eye and look at the areas in the back of the eye in more detail.

Now that test can be supplemented by a test called an optical coherence tomograph, which is a laser photograph of the layers in the back of your eye. And it just gives more of the landscape picture of the back of your eye, and a bit more supplemental information to the doctor.

Now there’s a third test that is a bit more of a recent test. It’s a very bright blue flash of light called an auto-fluorescence test, and that gives us a sense of the health of the pigment layers underneath the retina, and also helps us with the dry diagnosis, and also looking for progression, it can give us a sense of whether things are getting worse over time or how quickly they’re progressing.

So those would be the typical features of your examination that would produce a diagnosis of macular degeneration. So after your assessment for macular degeneration and the initial examination of your eyes, your physician will have a pretty good sense of whether you need further testing.

Most of that testing can be done and interpreted right at the same time, usually in the same day, and you can often be treated the same day too, depending on the logistics of that particular clinic.

So a lot of these processes involved in the diagnosis and treatment, they can really be bundled together and get you treated as soon as possible, and get your eye disease turned around as quickly as possible.

If you have more questions or concerns around macular degeneration diagnosis or the causes, please talk to your family physician. If there are questions beyond that, that they can’t answer, your local ophthalmologist, I’m sure, will be able to fill you in.

Presenter: Dr. David Maberley, Ophthalmologist, Ottawa, ON

Local Practitioners: Ophthalmologist

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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