When you go to your optometrist for an eye exam, you may be asked to do retinal mapping, also known as digital retinal imaging. Traditional eye dilation is often impractical for many people, so they often forgo the procedure. When your optometrist cannot see your retina, they may miss out on early disease detection.
Digital retinal imaging has many advantages for those who can't do traditional dilation. Keep reading to learn more about this modern procedure and how it helps you and your doctor keep your eyes healthy.
What Is the Importance of a Retinal Exam?
The retina contains many minute blood vessels. Certain health conditions may cause blood vessels to swell and break. A retinal exam can catch serious eye disease or damage before it leads to blindness. For example, you could have macular degeneration but without any definitive symptoms. A retinal exam can help catch a problem like that early.
The traditional way to examine the retinas is through eye dilation. The doctor uses drops to open up your pupils. They then shine a light on the back of the eye to examine the retina. While this exam is still popular and effective, it does have some drawbacks. It takes more time and temporarily increases your light sensitivity. Plus, you sometimes can't drive yourself home.
How Does Digital Retinal Imaging Work?
Digital retinal imaging involves a machine that takes a picture of the back of the eye. The optometrist can get a detailed image of your retina, optic nerve, and blood vessels. The procedure only takes a few minutes. You don't need pupil dilation, and you can continue with your normal activities afterwards. Plus, you get an actual physical record of the procedure.
When Should One Get a Traditional Dilation Exam?
Dilation is the traditional standard of care for disease detection. Therefore, if your optometrist suspects you have a problem, you will need one. Dilation may pick up fine details and structures that the digital image misses. For example, sometimes bleeding from minute blood vessels doesn't show up well on a digital retinal image. So, if you have a disease like diabetes, you may still need a regular dilation exam.
Since the digital retinal exam is quick and easy, you should try to get one with your yearly exam. It won't hurt your eyes, and it gives your eye doctor an idea about the health of your eye. If the doctor suspects a problem with your eye, they may follow up with a traditional exam to confirm the results from the digital one. If you have questions about an eye examination, talk to your optometrist.