As optometrists we are always discussing the benefits of getting eyes examined regularly. Our patients usually appreciate the importance of regular eye exams in detecting eye disease, but did you know that some conditions we look for can actually be life threatening?
One of those conditions can be revealed with an optomap Retinal exam. This is a laser scan we do at Mountain View Optometry for all comprehensive eye exam visits, to evaluate the health of the retina (the light sensitive tissue that lines the inside of the back of your eyes). Our optometrist reviews the image with you in the exam room to determine if any risk factors exist. Sometimes your pupils will need to be temporarily dilated using eye drops in order to get the best view of your retinas.
The image above is a scan of a patient’s retina. The red lines are the blood vessels. The eye is the only place in the human body where this type of blood vessel can be visualized without the aid of specialized testing.
Why do we want to see the blood vessels?
Many disease states of the body can be revealed by analyzing the blood vessels for signs of a problem. In this case the patient has a blockage of one of the blood vessels in the retina (circled area in photo). Called a “retinal embolism” or Hollenhorst plaque, it’s made up of cholesterol and came from a larger blood vessel elsewhere in the body.
Hollenhorst plaques found in the retina will prompt a phone call from our optometrist to your family doctor for special testing. The concern is that similar plaques could end up in the brain, causing a stroke or even death.
These plaques, if isolated to the retina, may or may not cause any symptoms whatsoever. If small enough, the blood may work its way around them, but if slightly larger the plaques may cause a loss of blood flow and even loss of vision.
Investing in an eye exam can pay off by giving you clearer vision. It may also result in even more significant benefits by diagnosing a sight, or even life-threatening condition.