Looking Good? Retinal Imaging Explained

These days, modern optometrists have far more tools at their disposal than they used to even a decade or so ago. Thanks to breakthroughs in computer technology, patients can now seek a wider range of advanced tests from their eye doctor. Some of these are able to be combined to offer a complete eye consultation that will help with the early detection of diseases as well as the usual issues of long and short-sightedness, for example. One of the latest innovations in eye care is retinal imaging. Despite the fact that such imaging has been around a while, few patients know much about it. What can you expect if your optometrist recommends that you have one?

A Digital Imaging Process

Retinal imaging relies upon the same sort of digital technology that you can find in most professional cameras – and even smartphones – nowadays. Essentially, a highly detailed image is captured of the patient's retina, including all of the blood vessels and the optic nerve. Because these parts of the body are all situated towards the back of the eye, specialist equipment is needed to make sure the image taken is in focus and covers all of the relevant areas. However, the image itself is nothing more complex than a detailed digital photograph.

Digital images of the retina are usually taken to offer support for the early detection and management of a number of eye conditions. These include glaucoma and macular degeneration, for example. Other problems that can be detected at an earlier stage than other methods allow for include diabetes and hypertension. Retinal imaging means that it is possible to get a much wider digital view of the back of the eye than it would be if an ophthalmoscope were used alone. It is important to note, however, that retinal imaging does not do away with the need for a normal eye examination from a healthcare professional. The process adds to what is known already to help provide a more accurate picture of eye health.

Is Retinal Imaging the Same as OCT Scanning?

No. Although some patients do not see the distinction, Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) scanning is not the same process and it uses different technologies. Nevertheless, both processes are similar in that they assist with the early detection of common eye diseases. An OCT scan is so detailed that it shows in-depth images of a patient's eyes and their internal structures. An OCT scan takes a few minutes to complete and – like retinal imaging - the equipment used never actually comes into contact with the eye.