The Amsler grid is a simple tool that can be used at home to test the eyes and monitor certain vision problems. The Amsler grid is most often used by people who suffer from macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is an eye disease that results in vision loss due to the deterioration of the macula. The macula is the part of the eye that gives us visual acuity, or visual sharpness. Those who suffer from macular degeneration lose vision slowly and gradually. Due to the gradual nature of the vision loss, it can be difficult to notice and track how much vision one is losing. This is where the Amsler grid comes in to test the eyes.

What is the Amsler grid?

The Amsler grid is a square containing a grid pattern throughout and a dot in the very center of the square. When used as directed, the grid is able to pinpoint problem spots in one’s vision. The grid can be used when printed on paper and also on a computer screen to test for vision loss in both eyes. It is an at-home test that is fast, simple, and effective to monitor your eyes.

How to use the grid

When looking at the grid, you should wear any glasses or contacts that you regularly wear to read. Hold the grid 12-15 inches away from your face. Make sure to always use the grid in a well-lit room. Cover one eye at a time and look directly at the center dot of the grid with your uncovered eye. While focusing on the dot, make note if any lines on the grid look blurry, wavy, dark, or are missing completely. Repeat with the other eye.

What does the grid tell us?

If you notice any abnormalities with your Amsler grid test, contact your optometrist immediately. It can be helpful for your eye doctor if you print out a copy of the Amsler grid to bring to your appointment and mark your problems areas. Your eye doctor will be able to better diagnose and treat your macular degeneration with the information provided by the Amsler grid test. They may also perform a full eye exam, a visual field test to check on your eyes’ peripheral vision or run tests to rule out other vision problems, such as a vein occlusion. Changes in your Amsler grid can have serious implications for your eyes, so it is important to do the test daily if you have macular degeneration and to call your doctor immediately if you see any changes in either of your eyes.

Image Source: National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health via Flickr