Using technology to better examine your eye health
For years the standard way of checking the health of the back of your eyes has been either direct ophthalmoscopy (when we get really close with the bright light) or slit-lamp ophthalmoscopy where you have your chin on a chin-rest and we look inside the eyes using a microscope, a bright light and a super-powerful magnifying lens.
All optometrists are highly skilled at recognising anything that may be wrong, the only problem with this is one of comparison. Judging whether the appearance of someone’s retina two or more years ago has changed or not, can be difficult, even when comprehensive notes are kept. That’s where photographs can be invaluable.
Many eye conditions can be particularly hard to detect because the changes in the appearance of the back of the eye can be very subtle and slow. If we take glaucoma as an example, the appearance of what’s called the optic disc, where the optic nerve joins the back of the eye, is one of the things that we monitor very closely. Glaucoma damages the optic disc and it’s shape and size change slowly as the damage occurs over time. If we have images to compare, then this damage can be picked up a lot earlier than would otherwise be the case. This is not just true of glaucoma, the detection of diabetes and other problems hugely benefit from this too. At Patrick and Menzies, we were early adopters of this technology, known as Fundus Photography over 15 years ago.
Since fundus photography became commonplace, a newer, more advanced technology became available, known as Optical Coherence Tomography or OCT. From the patient’s perspective the procedure is very similar to fundus photography. However instead of a flat 2D photograph of the retina, OCT uses scanning light beams to create a 3D image, not unlike an ultrasound, of the retina. The advantage of this is that we can see the deeper layers of the retina, nerve fibres and blood vessels underneath, things that can’t be seen on a conventional fundus photograph. Conditions like Glaucoma, diabetes and many others can be picked even earlier than before, enabling treatment before any significant sight loss or other complications can occur. We installed OCT in all our practices over 5 years ago and they have proved invaluable.
Our Braintree practice also has something called Optomap. These machines give us an ultra-widefield image of the back of the eye, enabling easier detection of any problems in the peripheral areas of the retina.
These more advanced ways of examining your eyes are a standard part of our private eye examination, and included if you are part of our VisionPlan scheme.
For anyone who receives a basic NHS check, they are available as an upgrade for a small fee.