Q: Eye exams have changed so much from when I was a child. There is so much more technology that is foreign to me and yet I need to make decisions as to having a retinal photograph or an OCT scan. Can you shed some light on the need for these and how important they are to my visual health?
A: You are absolutely correct in that eye examinations have changed tremendously over the last number of years. Not only have they changed for the patient but they have changed for the doctors as well. I know most of us would not contemplate practising without this technology as it gives us far more information not only to treat a potentially visually threatening condition but also to implement preventative measures.
These technologies are so quick and efficient, many of them can be done without the use of dilating drops which have caused concerns of blurred vision (up to 4 hours) and discomfort in sunlight. There may still be a need to use dilating drops if the view of the photo or OCT scan is not clear but for most people that do not wish to be dilated, the technology of photo and OCT permits for much more detailed information than could be seen through an undilated eye. People with diabetes, hypertension, glaucoma or macular degeneration should definitely consider having these tests done as the retina is greatly affected in these conditions.
A baseline retinal photo is always recommended, also in children, especially if they have moles or nevi on their lids/retina etc. If these change over time, there is no better way to document than with a photograph.
The OCT is a technology that permits us to see all the layers of the retina. This is important in macular degeneration as it helps determine if it is “wet” or “dry”...the “wet” form requires immediate attention by a retinal specialist. These are difficult to discern without an OCT. Glaucoma is detected much more quickly with an OCT scan of the optic nerve than through traditional visual field monitoring. This can help prevent peripheral vision loss far earlier than before.
Many of these tests are not covered under OHIP yet their importance is undeniable. It would be a disservice for a doctor not to let you know that a technology would benefit you. The choice is yours. What price would you put on your vision?
Dr. Patricia Fink
Millcroft Shopping Centre
2080 Appleby Line, Unit E6
Burlington, Ontario, L7L6M6
Tel: (905) 319-1066