What is Digital Retinal Screening?
Today, Digital Retinal Screening is an improved technology in which your doctor can take high-resolution digital photographs of the interior portion of your eye called the retina.
The colour photograph, taken by means of a specialized retinal camera, shows detailed images of the various structures of the retina including the optic nerve, blood vessels, nerve fiber layer, and the macula. It can show abnormalities that may threaten normal vision.
This new technology can greatly aid your doctor’s ability to accurately diagnose and document many diseases. It also provides a baseline for comparison with previous and future visits, which aids in monitoring disease progression and response to therapy.
Diabetes is a condition affecting proper circulation. People with diabetes are at high risk for developing a variety of eye diseases including cataract, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy, one of the leading causes of blindness. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage to the small blood vessels in the patient’s retina (the light sensing tissue in the back of the eye). Early detection is key to preventing vision loss, making it crucial for diabetic patients to have regular photographs taken of their eyes. Through the use of retinal screening, your doctor can accurately diagnose diabetic retinopathy as well as carefully monitor any disease progression. It is possible to first discover diabetes as the result of a retinal screening.
Glaucoma is the term for a group of diverse eye diseases, all of which cause progressive damage to the optic nerve (the part of the eye that carries visual messages to the brain). This results in a gradual loss of vision in the peripheral or side portion of the patient’s visual field. Glaucoma is often, but not always, accompanied by high intraocular fluid pressure (IOP) in the eye. Because most people have no symptoms or warning signs until the disease has advanced beyond repair, it is crucial for glaucoma patients to have retinal screenings, so the doctor can detect even slight changes in the condition of their optic nerve.
Patients with Macular Degeneration
Age-related Macular Degeneration, or AMD, is the breakdown of the macula (the part of the retina that provides sharp, central vision). Over 90% of people with macular degeneration have the dry form of the disease, which does not usually cause severe vision loss. The second form, the wet form, is characterized by the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the macula that can leak fluid or bleed. Wet AMD can lead to significant complications and vision loss in the center of the visual field. Early detection is essential, because it can ensure adequate treatment and help prevent greater damage. For this reason, it is very important for all AMD patients to have regular retinal photographs taken of their eyes, so their doctor can closely monitor any progression of the disease.
Patients with Healthy Eyes
Even patients (adults and children) with healthy eyes should be screened. Knowing what the eye looked like when it was healthy (baseline image) is often times the best way to detect if a disease is starting. The patient’s healthy photograph can also be compared with future photographs to determine if there have been any changes.
Patients with Other Retinal Diseases and Disorders
Patients with other retinal diseases should also have regular retinal screenings. Depending on the severity of the disease and the history of the disease in your family, your doctor can recommend the best course of treatment and testing.
Some of the Advantages of Digital Retinal Screening:
- Your images are available immediately, allowing for quick diagnosis and an appropriate management for your unique case.
- The images can be enhanced using sophisticated software to highlight any problem areas. This helps your doctor with diagnostic decisions.
- Your doctor can show you your images at the time of your screening so you can make the most informed decision on your own management. Specialized software can help a family member understand in what way your vision may be affected and how you see your world.
- Digital photographs can be sent electronically to a co-managing doctor, if necessary, allowing for more timely diagnosis and treatment.
- Digital photographs can be placed in your permanent clinical record, allowing your doctor to closely monitor even the slightest progression of any abnormalities.