This post was sponsored by Leightons Opticians and Hearing Care
Can you read this line out loud? What letters can you see? Is it better with one or two? Which is clearer, the red or the green?
If you’ve had an eye examination in the last 20 years, chances are you’ve been asked these strange questions, but the interest in looking inside the eyes has been around since the mid-1800s. So in all that time, how much have eye exams actually changed?
Quite a lot actually – and most of us aren’t aware that there is more than one type of eye test available. When thinking of going to the opticians, you imagine reading letters from a poster or having a bright light shone in your eyes.
However, like with so many areas of our lives, modern developments in technology mean more advanced and thorough eye tests can now be carried out. Probably the most game-changing of these technologies in the world of eye care is the Optical Coherence Tomography scan (OCT for short!).
Optical professionals and doctors around the world have been examining eyes for many years, with the concept of using a torch to look into the eye first suggested in the 1840-50s, and the first handheld ophthalmoscope (that torch they hold really close to your eyes) being invented in 1915.
Over the years, the retina (the layer at the back of the eye) has been studied and examined with better and better technology becoming available, including the OCT scan, which became viable in 1991.(1) The OCT scan was then commercially available to medical eye departments, followed eventually by high street optical practices in the years thereafter.
What is an OCT scan?
An OCT scan works much like an ultrasound – but for your eye. Light is sent into the eye and is bounced back off the various different cellular layers in the retina. The image of these different ‘bounce-back-rates’ builds up a striped picture of light and dark areas. Assessing the retina like this allows optometrists to see the biology of the eye. A healthy biology is more likely to correspond with good vision/eye function, and conversely finding anomalies in the biology or disease of the tissue, is more likely to be linked with poor vision/eye function.
OCT scans can detect certain potentially sight-threatening issues up to five years earlier than standard testing techniques, because often the biology changes before the vision is lost.(2) It provides a cross-section view of the layers of tissue beyond the retinal surface, helping to spot abnormalities as early as possible.
Why have an OCT scan?
Conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, and diabetes can all be discovered earlier rather than later.
The earlier a potential problem is detected, the earlier it can be addressed, which is why regular eye tests are so important. Having an OCT scan makes your eye test as thorough as possible, giving a more complete picture of your eye health. A 3D image of the layers of your retina is produced, and if you have an OCT scan each time you have your eyes tested, your optometrist can then compare the images against each other, to see if there has been any noticeable changes over time. This means protecting and preventing issues as early as possible.
An OCT scan is a completely non-invasive and pain-free assessment – nothing touches your eye, and there is no discomfort during or after the scan. It typically takes five minutes to scan both eyes, and the scans are often carried out by a trained optical assistant.
All this information lets your optometrist build a complete picture of your eyes, so that they can detect, track and arrange treatment for if and when an issue develops – not just once you start to notice changes in your vision yourself. Unfortunately by this time, it can be too late, and the damage has been done.
What can you see?
The 3D high definition images that an OCT scan produces lets you see more of your eyes than ever before. All your scans should be stored as part of your optical records. They will look similar to the images below:
Your optometrist will go through these in full, explaining any differences that may occur over time and talk you through any abnormalities that may be identified. As well as comparing your eyes over time, your optometrist can also determine how your eyes compare to typical results for someone of your demographic.
Where can I have an OCT scan?
Some opticians now offer this service. You can have an OCT scan at your local Leightons Opticians & Hearing Care branch, as part of their Ultimate Eye Exam. Find out more, locate your nearest Leightons branch or book an eye test online at www.leightons.co.uk.
(2) Clinically Detectable Nerve Fiber Atrophy Precedes the Onset of Glaucomatous Field Loss. Alfred Sommer, MD, MHSc; Joanne Katz, MS; Harry A. Quigley, MD; et al Neil R. Miller, MD; Alan L. Robin, MD; Ronald C. Richter, MD; Kathe A. Witt, COMT. Arch Ophthalmol. 1991;109(1):77-83. doi:10.1001/archopht.1991.01080010079037