SPECTRUM Optometry - Bringing Vision to Life - retinalimaging

By: Spectrum Optometry  09-12-2011
Keywords: glaucoma, Macular Degeneration, Retina

The retina is found in the back of the eye where it functions in the same way as film in a camera. As light enters the eye, it is focused on the retina and this visual information is then sent directly from the retina to the brain so you can see images.

The retina has blood vessels that supply it with oxygen and these blood vessels can be seen by your optometrist when looking into your eye. This window into your circulatory system allows the doctor to diagnose and manage conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, retinal detachments, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

Optometrists have always been able to look at the retina and its blood vessels, but now technology has made it possible to capture the image with a digital camera. This allows the image to be stored or printed so that accurate comparisons can be made to identify changes over time.

Normal Retina

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in North America’s over the age of 60. Macular degeneration does not cause total blindness because side vision is still functional. Central vision that is lost to macular degeneration cannot be restored. There are two forms of macular degeneration, the dry form and the wet form. The dry form accounts for approximately 90% of the cases. Fortunately the dry form usually causes less vision loss, but unfortunately there is no treatment currently available. The less prevalent wet form can lead to more significant vision loss but its progression may be stopped by injections if it is diagnosed and treated very early.


Glaucoma is group of eye diseases in which the pressure in the eye causes vision loss. Pressure damages the optic nerve, initially causing blind spots at the outer edges of the visual field. If not treated, the pressure can eventually lead to loss of all vision. Glaucoma is typically associated with a painless, progressive loss of vision that is not noticed by the patient. Fortunately, we now have ways to treat glaucoma. We are not able to cure the disease or return vision that has already been lost, but with treatment it is usually possible to slow or stop the vision loss from progressing.

Choroidal Nevus

A choroidal nevus is a freckle that occurs in the layer below the retina (the choroid). It can occur in up to 30% of people. Like freckles on your skin, in most cases they cause no problems. It is prudent, however, to photograph the choroidal nevus and to monitor for any changes. Monitoring is usually done at 3 months and if there is no change, then at routine visits.

Sports Injury

Loss of central vision due to a baseball injury at age 21. Patient was 52 years of age when photograph was taken.

Papilledema caused by a Brain Tumour

Patient 77 years of age when photo was taken.

Keywords: Blood Vessels, glaucoma, Macular Degeneration, Retina, Vision Loss

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