What is macular degeneration testing (Macula Risk)?
Macula Risk is a DNA test, that determines the risk of losing your vision due to age related macular degeneration (AMD). A cheek swab is taken to detect the presence of specific genetic markers, which are known to be indicators for vision loss. The sample (cheek swab) is then analyzed, along with your family and smoking history, to determine the risk of losing your sight.
When will Dr. Bello recommend macular degeneration testing?
Dr. Bello will advise you if testing is in your best interest if you have a current diagnosis of macular degeneration (even the mild form, known as dry macular degeneration).
Why is macular degeneration testing testing important?
The value of measuring the risk level of macular degeneration is priceless. AMD is a gradual and harmful disease; the emphasis on early risk detection is extremely important. With Macula Risk, we are able to measure and predict the possible chances of developing the more advanced or severe forms of AMD. Then, we are able to take the necessary steps to educate, monitor, and act quickly, should your vision start to decline.
What takes place during macular degeneration testing?
Macula Risk testing is performed after your exam with Dr. Bello. If indicated, we fill out the necessary testing forms, which you will sign. During the test we collect the sample by swabbing the inside of your cheek. The brushing of the inner cheek is simple and there is no pain whatsoever. We do ask that you refrain from eating or drinking 30 minutes prior to the sample collection. Prior to sending off the sample, we will ask if you would like your DNA stored for future research. Finally, your sample will be shipped to the lab where they will look for the presence of certain genetic markers that are known to be indicators for vision loss. Regardless, all patients are sent home with an Amsler Grid (image on the left), and reminded to check their vision daily.
When will you notify me of my results?
After your sample has been sent to the lab, we traditionally receive results in two weeks. As soon as your results come in, we will contact you immediately.
Do I have to come back in for further testing?
Your test results will determine the appropriate testing and follow up appointments. For example: results falling under category 1 and 2; patients only need to be followed on a yearly basis, with an exam.
Test results indicating a higher risk category, (such as 3, 4, and 5), are seen on a more frequent basis. For example: category 3 presents a moderate risk of developing a more serious form of AMD. These patients are seen twice a year, for a full-dilated exam, along with specialized macula testing, such as an OCT M and php. This will track any changes in the back of your eyes, which can help prevent sudden vision loss.
Category 4 patients receive the same testing, but are asked to return every four months. Category 5 patients are seen every 3 months, with the same testing as well.
How much does Macula Risk cost; is it reimbursed by insurance?
There is no cost from our office to collect the sample. Macular degeneration testing is reimbursed by almost all insurances, including Medicare, for patients who have findings of AMD. Medicare and most insurances pay 100% of the cost.
Although your insurance will only cover the test, if there are AMD findings, you can still be tested (even if you do not have signs of AMD or if you are in a younger age group). However, under these circumstance the test will be self-pay and you will need to provide a check or money order, at the time of sample collection. The lab will not perform the test without valid insurance or payment.
To find out more information regarding macular degeneration testing, please contact us at