While vision correction, such as contact lenses and glasses, is an important part of eye examinations, there are many other essential aspects. One of the most important roles that our optometrists perform is completing a thorough ocular health evaluation. Ocular health examinations assess the entire eye, from the very front surface to the back inner lining. By closely looking at all of the tissues of the eye using high powered microscopes and specialized lenses, optometrists can identify eye conditions such as dry eye disease, macular degeneration, or glaucoma. They can also detect ocular changes from systemic conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure. Many ocular health conditions are painless, so regular health evaluations are important to rule out potential problems and ensure that your eyes will be healthy for many years to come.
The Importance of Retinal Examinations
The evaluation of the retina is one of the most important aspect of an ocular health examination. The retina is the tissue that lines the back of the eye. When light enters the pupil, it travels through the eye and lands on the retina, where the visual information is gathered and sent to the brain. This neural tissue is absolutely necessary for clear vision. The retina is not easily viewable, and cannot be seen through the outside of the eye, so in order to inspect the health of the retina your optometrist must utilize some unique examining techniques.
The pupil, which is the dark circle in the center of the iris, is actually a hole that allows light to reach the retina. Doctors look through the pupil in order to look at the retina and other internal parts of the eye. Sometimes your doctor can look through your small, un-dilated pupil using a special light and lens and see a small portion of the retina. Or they may choose to use eye drops to make your pupils much larger, giving them a wider view of the back of your eye.
Many people choose to have a retinal evaluation using a digital screening process. This new technology allows for a wide-field photograph to be taken of the retina. The doctor can use these images to thoroughly evaluate retinal health, and to monitor for changes down the road. Retinal imaging can be completed even without using eye drops to dilate your pupils. If you are trying to decide between dilation drops or a digital screening, talk to your optometrist. They can give recommendations based on what they already know about your ocular health, while also considering any risk factors you may have.
What Is Detected in a Retinal Evaluation?
The retina is the only tissue in the entire body where blood vessels and nerves can be directly viewed, without requiring any invasive procedure or treatment. Because of this unique feature, the retina gives a lot of information about the overall health of the body. Chronic conditions that affect the blood vessels throughout the body, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, can cause changes to the retinal appearance which can be detected during a retinal health exam. Additionally, potentially blinding eye conditions such as glaucoma or macular degeneration can be diagnosed by evaluating the retina in an ocular health examination.