Eye examinations are useful for more than simply detecting and treating vision problems. A comprehensive eye exam includes a thorough health evaluation that looks at the entire eye, from the very front surface to the back lining, to assess for any possible health condition. This portion of the eye exam can detect silent eye conditions such as glaucoma, or can indicate the presence of general health conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes. Continue reading to learn more about examining eye health.
Retinal Health and Your Eye Exam
The retina is the neural tissue that lines the back inner wall of the eyeball. This important structure captures light and sends visual information from the eye to the brain and is absolutely essential for good vision. The retina cannot be seen by looking at the external portion of the eye. In order to visualize your retina, your eye doctor has to look through your pupil (the dark circle in the center of your iris) and through the inside of your eye.
Examining the retina can be done several different ways. Your doctor can use specialized equipment such as a microscope and a high-powered lens in order to direct light through your pupil and towards your retina. One option is for your doctor to look through your small pupil and see a very small area of the retina. Or, if your pupils are dilated using medicated eye drops, your pupil will become much larger and give your doctor a much wider view of your retina. It may be helpful to think of a retinal exam as looking through a door; trying to view the retina through an un-dilated pupil is like looking through a keyhole, while a dilated retinal evaluation is like looking through an open door.
Updated technologies have given us new ways to assess the retina. There are several different retinal photography machines that can take pictures that visualize large areas of the retina, even without dilating your pupils. Retinal imaging is a good option to screen for retinal health conditions and to monitor existing retinal findings.
If you are wondering if you should have a dilated retinal examination or if you should opt for the photos instead, talk to your optometrist. They can look at your risk factors or existing conditions and make recommendations for the most appropriate form of exam.
Why Is the Retina So Important During Your Eye Examination
Good retinal health is essential for good vision. This part of the eye is where many different ocular diseases occur, such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, or retinal holes and detachments. As some of these conditions can have little to no symptoms, a regular retinal health evaluation is necessary to rule them out. The retina is also where many overall health conditions can be identified because is the only place in the entire body where blood vessels and nerves can be directly and noninvasively viewed. For this reason, systemic conditions that affect blood vessels, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, can be detected with a retinal health exam. Even some inflammatory or autoimmune conditions like tuberculosis or sarcoidosis can have an impact on retinal health. By regularly having a comprehensive eye exam, including a retinal evaluation, you can ensure that your eyes are safe from a wide variety of systemic and ocular conditions.