New test detects early signs of macular disease

Fight for Sight research that was funded in 2011 has resulted in the development of a new tool to detect eye conditions at an early stage. The chart is called the Moorfields Acuity Chart (MAC) and has the ability to spot the first stages of sight loss in age-related macular degeneration and possibly glaucoma. It is more reliable than standard eye charts.

Professor Roger Anderson from Ulster University is now being funded further by Fight for Sight and the National Eye Research Centre to make additional improvements to the new chart, in research announced in 2018.

Why was this research needed?
Age-related macular degeneration commonly affects people age 50 and older. The condition affects the macula, a small part of the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye (the retina) which is used for the central, detailed vision needed for reading and driving. Age-related macular degeneration causes blurred or reduced central vision, in one or both eyes.

Most sight loss from age-related macular degeneration happens in the later stages. Until now, there has been no quick and reliable sight test that can detect the earliest changes in the retina in age-related macular degeneration. Standard letter charts are not consistent or sensitive enough to give an early diagnosis accurately or to monitor the progress of the condition.

What were the results of the research project?
The research team developed a new eye test that uses letters – known as ‘high-pass’ letters – built up from fine (high spatial frequency) black-and-white stripes.
Results showed that MAC charts produced more reliable results compared with standard charts for people with the condition. This was not the case for participants with normal vision.

How will this research impact patients?
The earliest vision loss associated with age-related macular degeneration can be detected more reliably using the new test. The new chart is sensitive enough to give an accurate early diagnosis, which will enable patients to start treatment plans more quickly. The chart also allows more reliable monitoring of disease progression which is important as new treatments are developed that can prevent sight loss from this condition.

Following further Fight for Sight research announced in 2018 the team are now further improving the performance of the chart.

Find out more about age related macular degeneration
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