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The Amsler Grid may be your new best friend

If you’re over the age of 60, or you’re a smoker, or your family has a history of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), then you’re in an AMD high-risk group.

If you do fall into any of those high-risk categories there are two steps you can take to lower your risk of this retina disorder that is the major cause of eyesight loss in the elderly. First, read the e-Alert “Keeping Watch” (4/12/05) to find out which antioxidant supplements may significantly lower your risk. (You can find this and other e-Alerts by searching the e-Alert archives on our web site at

Second, you can use a simple screening tool called the Amsler Grid, which is used to indicate the early stages of AMD and other macular diseases.

The Amsler Grid is a small square divided into a 400-unit grid with a black dot at the center. There are many web sites on the Internet that carry Amsler Grids that you can easily print out. To find a grid, just enter “amsler grid” in any search engine and you’ll find plenty of sites to choose from.

After printing the grid, testing is very simple. Just hold the grid at the distance you would normally use to read something. If you wear reading glasses, wear them for this test. Then cover one eye and focus on the center dot. Can you see all the corners and sides of the grid box? Do any of the lines appear distorted or blurred? Are all the squares the same size? Are any areas of the grid missing or dark?

After testing both eyes, if you answer yes to any of these questions it’s time to make an appointment with the eye doctor immediately. AMD cannot be reversed, but when diagnosed its progression can sometimes be slowed and in some cases completely stopped with proper treatment.