A visit to the optometrist is not only to check your vision but also the health of your retina, a layer of tissue containing light-sensitive cells lining the back of your eye. Your retina is responsible for triggering nerve impulses that are sent to the brain via the optic nerve forming a visual image. Checking the health of your retina can not only help prevent vision loss but also provides a window into the health of other vital organs, like the heart and brain. The use of dilation drops, and retinal imaging techniques, such as Ultra-Wide Digital Retinal Imaging and optical coherence tomography or OCT, can all help your optometrist detect certain abnormalities as early as possible.
Dilation drops are still an important tool to monitor retinal health, but the development of Ultra-Wide Digital Retinal Imaging and OCT has revolutionized the field, providing your optometrist with a high-resolution photo of the back of your eye. Here’s what each image allows you to see and why this view is so important:
Ultra-Wide Digital Retinal Imaging: A surface view
Ultra-Wide Digital Retinal Imaging, sometimes referred to as an Optomap, provides a 200-degree view of the retina’s surface from the optic nerve and macula through the retinal periphery. In comparison, dilating drops allow the optometrist to view the entire retina but only a small area of the retina at a time, like shining a flashlight into a dark room. The wide view provided by this type of retinal imaging can make it much easier to spot abnormalities and potentially prevent the progression of a disease or vision loss.
Your retina is the only part of the body that provides a direct view of your blood vessels. This means that retinal images can not only help reveal eye diseases but also life-threatening diseases such as stroke, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and brain tumors.
The image also provides a permanent photo record of your retina’s health over the years. This can provide more reliable and detailed data than notes alone and help your optometrist better monitor the health of your eyes. The photos also function as opportunities for education, providing a visual aide for your doctor to use when explaining the structure of the retina, conditions that may be revealed by the image, and possible treatment options.
This type of retinal imaging is recommended for patients of all ages but children must be able to sit still and focus well enough to take the photo. Also keep in mind that although Ultra-Wide Digital Retinal Imaging can take the place of dilation, dilating drops may still be required depending on your condition.
OCT: Composition and structure
An OCT also takes a digital photo of your retina, but this photo shows a cross-section of the retina rather than its surface. Think of it like a spot on your skin: the doctor can make a diagnosis only based on a superficial view. In order to confirm if the spot is benign or malignant, a biopsy must be performed in order to see the composition of the cells.
An OCT is able to show you the individual layers of the retina without an invasive procedure. In the past, this view wasn’t possible without surgery, but now your optometrist has the ability to detect more eye diseases in the exam room, saving you an extra trip to an ophthalmologist for further testing.
The OCT is recommended for patients over the age of 50, in addition to retinal imaging, as it most commonly detects abnormalities associated with age-related diseases.
Early detection can save your vision
Retinal imaging helps your optometrist detect signs of disease early on, protecting and preserving your vision. Plaza Lane Optometry is proud to offer both Ultra-Wide Digital Retinal Imaging and OCT to its patients, allowing us to serve more of your needs right here in the office. Your insurance may even cover both services, so be sure to ask about both at your next comprehensive eye exam.
To learn more about your retina and how retinal imaging works, watch this short video on our Services page.