If you’ve been to the optometrist’s office lately, you’ve probably been asked if you’d like to have your retinas photographed. This sounds like a strange glamor shot for your eyes, but there are some fundamental advantages to having this done during your next regular visit — not the least of which is by helping your optometrist discover and diagnose potentially blinding situations before they become a big problem.
Preventative medicine such as this can give you the advanced warning you need to avoid more dangerous situations in the future. For example, the early discovery of a disease can help you to take the appropriate actions to reverse or prevent its advancement.
There are several types of retinal (also known as Fundus) photographs that can be taken. The first is a standard photograph, which requires no preparation or injections. This is the standard procedure done during preventative checkups. This may or may not be done with dilation, depending on the degree of the test and the equipment used to take the photos. The photo shown here was taken today with no injections or dilations using a TOPCON retinal camera.
The second is called a Fluorescein Angiography, which is performed in much the same way as a standard retina photo, but after an injection of a mineral-based fluorescent dye in your arm. This allows the optometrist to see the blood flow more clearly throughout the eye, making it easier to detect various types of diseases. The injection itself is pretty painless, and is typically done in the area around the elbow.
While having your retinas photographed, you’ll be asked to place your chin and forehead on a stand that positions you in front of what looks like one of those big tourist telescopes you can use to see landmarks from a pier. Once your head is in position, the optometrist (or the assistant) will ask you to look at a green dot that appears to be just outside of the scope. This is an optical illusion, but it enables them to properly photograph the back of your eye. After a few seconds of staring, a bright green flash of light will go off as the photo is taken. They will then do the same for your other eye. The entire procedure takes a minute, and doesn’t hurt at all.
Once the photos are taken, the doctor will examine them for any signs of nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy , macular degeneration, hypertensive retinopathy, optic nerve disease, retinal holes, or thinning. This test is recommended for everyone, but especially for people with high blood pressure, very bad vision, or frequent headaches. This test may also be recommended for people who see flashes of light or floaters (fragments that appear to float in your field of view).
In most cases, this procedure costs between US$5 and US$15, and may be paid for by your optical insurance. It’s been said that prevention is the best medicine, and with vision being such a vital sense for so many of us, isn’t it better to get it done than let a potentially blinding problem go undetected for too long?