Your Annual Retinal Exam: Fact or Fiction?

11:12 AM, Aug 04, 2017

If you’re above the age of 60, the American Optometric Association recommends getting a comprehensive eye exam once a year, which includes a dilated retinal eye exam.

But with the technology available today, is it really necessary to endure dilated, blurry eyes every time you get your vision checked? Put your knowledge to the test about this crucial eye exam.

1. Fact or fiction? A retinal exam just looks at the health of your vision

Answer: Fiction

“A retinal exam allows us to observe ocular blood vessels as well as the optic nerve,” says Dr. Bill Hasquet of Montana Eyecare. “The condition of those vessels and nerve can give us significant clues about what’s going on in the rest of your body.”

The retinal exam can help your doctor diagnose health conditions, such as hypertension, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, retinal detachment, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

2. Fact or fiction? Dilating your eyes is the only way to check your vision

Answer: Fiction

It’s now possible to have a digital exam, such as the Optomap, which scans your eyes and then produces a digital image of your retina. The advantages of the laser scan are three-fold. First, it’s much more convenient and doesn’t require uncomfortable dilation. Secondly, it provides an ultra-wide view of the back of your eye; more than 80 percent of the retina can be viewed in a single image. Finally, the images can be saved for future comparison of the condition of your retina.

3. Fact or fiction? A digital scan has its limitations

Answer: Fact

The eye drops used for dilation cause the pupils to widen, allowing in more light so that your doctor can get a better view of the back of the eye. This type of exam is critical for discovering conditions that could potentially lead to serious vision loss.

Since many eye diseases display few symptoms, pupil dilation is essential for detecting such conditions as macular degeneration, glaucoma, retinal detachment and ocular tumor. The digital scan, on the other hand, can fail to catch issues on the outside edges of the retina, where serious problems can arise.

4. Fact or fiction: You should consider more than comfort when deciding for or against dilation

Answer: Fact

“Depending on several factors: your age, your overall health and your risk for eye diseases, an individual should weigh the need for eye dilation with the advice of his or her doctor,” says Dr. Hasquet. “A digital scan can be a great tool if used as a complement, not a replacement, for a comprehensive exam. Dilation may not be necessary at every exam, but that’s an issue you should discuss with your eye specialist first.”

If you’re looking to schedule an eye exam or have any other questions about dilation, the team at Montana Eyecare is dedicated to preventive maintenance to guarantee your visual well-being. Call 406-443-2121 to set up an appointment or visit for more information.

Our Location
550 North Montana Avenue
Helena, MT 59601
Montana Eye Care

At Montana Eyecare, our professional eye care staff will be happy to assist you with your vision needs.  We have treatment options available for everyone. Whether you are interested in making an appointment for a LASIK consultation, have cataracts, need an annual eye exam, or just need glasses, we can help!

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