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Early Diagnosis is Key for AMD Patients

Damon Dierker, OD

Dr. Damon Dierker is all about what is best for his patients – and the best thing for his AMD patients is early diagnosis. With the AdaptDx® test, he gets a clear, objective measurement of retinal function with 90% sensitivity and 90% specificity for the presence of AMD.

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What is best for AMD patients?

I’m all about what is the best thing for my patient and the best thing in macular degeneration is early diagnosis. The patient needs to understand that they have a disease that can put them at risk for vision loss over their lifetime. Our job as a doctor is to make that diagnosis and make appropriate recommendations with strategies to reduce that risk of that becoming a problem over the patient’s lifetime, but we have to make the diagnosis first. If I didn’t have the AdaptDx, yes I can see AMD…I’m going to see it later. I’m going to detect it when patients have more obvious signs. They’ve already had it for years; why should I not intervene sooner? I can do that now with dark adaptation testing and the AdaptDx.

The earliest symptom of AMD is poor night vision

We know that the earliest symptom of macular degeneration is poor night vision, so if I have somebody to come into my office that’s over the age of 50, very common thing, especially if we ask the question, “Are you having more problems in the night?” The majority of our patients over the age of 50 or so say, “Yeah, something’s just not quite right.” That could just be normal aging, it could be a cataract, but it could be macular degeneration. So we ask that question and if we identify that this patient has a complaint of poor night vision, we have an indication to do dark adaptation testing to help understand does this patient have AMD or is it something else? We don’t diagnose glaucoma simply by looking at structure only we also look at function. Other functional things, besides dark adaptation, cultivation testing, Snellen acuity, contrast sensitivity – they’re not very sensitive or specific. When we test dark adaptation, now we have that functional test, that functional biomarker, that helps us understand, “Does this patient actually have AMD?”

Optometrists are primed to make a huge difference in patients’ lives

With most things in healthcare the earlier the diagnosis, the better the outcome is going to be. Macular degeneration is no exception. I can have a patient stop smoking, I can talk to them about diet and nutrition, blue light protection, exercise, cardiovascular disease risk-management – all of these different things that are evidence-based so if you put all of those things together, we as optometrists can really make a big difference in how these patients do over the next 10, 15, 20 years. But you got to diagnose it early. Having the AdaptDx allows me to do that with confidence.