Part of an Optometrist’s responsibility is detecting eye disease or risk factors for eye disease. We use a number of tools in order to do this: microscopes, penlights, visual acuity, etc. One area that we need to look at is the retina. You can view the retina by shining a light and looking through the pupil, basically it is like looking inside a round vase. With training it is relatively easy to view the areas directly at the back of the eye, approximately a 30 degree field of view. To view more of the peripheral areas of the retina requires drops which dilate (enlarge) the pupils so you can see more area inside the retina. These drops blur the vision and are inconvenient for most patients, but until a few years ago it was the only way to view a larger area of the retina.
The Optomap is a digital imaging system that allows us to view a larger, up to a 200 degree field of view, area of the retina without using eye drops. Not only does this provide a more comprehensive view of the retina with less inconvenience for the patient, but it also gives us a permanent record that can be compared to from one visit to another. Conditions that the Optomap can screen for include retinal tears & detachments, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and glaucoma.
We recommend Optomap imaging for each patient at each exam because it helps provide the most through eye exam that we can provide. While this exam is usually covered by private health care plans, it is not covered by Manitoba Health. For this reason and for the reason that each individual has different priorities we also provide this as a strongly recommended, but optional test.
Fortunately most of my patient’s eyes are healthy and we do not detect any vision threatening pathology. I am surprised that we do regularly find asymptomatic problems and risk factors that we would not find without the Optomap exam. Basically, you don’t know what is there unless you can see it.
Michael D. Nelson, OD