Q: Why should I take an image of my retina during my eye exam?
A: A picture can say a 1000 words, and this saying holds true with the eye. There are many components of the eye, but one of the most important parts of the eye is the retina,which is located in the back of the eye behind the pupil and lens inside. The retina is responsible for converting light energy into chemical signals that are then transferred via the optic nerve to the brain, where that information is processed, resulting in our vision. There are no pain receptors within the retina, and so you will never feel any issues in the retina that may be life threatening, such as melanomas, and sight threatening, such as glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy. Changes within the retina can cause vision loss, therefore it is important for us to get imaging in the back of the eye so that we can check for any retinal disease, such as Macular Degeneration and Glaucoma, and so that we can establish a normal baseline so that we can monitor any changes more accurately. Dilations are also necessary for us to evaluate the back of the eye as well as imaging to ensure we have a complete overall sense of the eye.
Q: What is diabetic retinopathy?
A: Diabetic retinopathy is a condition which can occur at any stage or type of diabetes. In fact, many times diabetes is identified during an eye exam in a person who never suspected they may have diabetes. It is caused by damage to the very delicate blood vessels within the retina. Over time, these blood vessels may start to leak blood and fluid into the retina or other areas of the eye. If the condition progresses, new vessels may begin to grow within the retina, which places the retina at risk of additional and sometimes sudden complications including internal bleeds and retinal detachment.
Q: If one of my parents has glaucoma, does that mean I will develop it as well at some point?
A: Having a parent with glaucoma does not mean that the child will automatically develop the condition too. However, those people with an immediate family history (parents, siblings) of glaucoma are at more risk to develop this disease. Patients should have a comprehensive eye examination each year to evaluate the health of the eyes and to look for signs of glaucoma. Some of these signs can be an increase in the pressure of the eyes as well as changes to the appearance of the optic nerve. Many times there are no symptoms noticed by the patient. If there is suspicion of glaucoma, more frequent visits to the eye doctor along with additional nerve testing are often required.