Retinal Diagnostics & Testing
To evaluate retinal health, your doctor will conduct a thorough diagnostic exam to look for damage and abnormalities in the eye. During this exam, there are several diagnostic testing modalities that may be performed to help determine the presence, location, and severity of damage or illness.
Dilated Eye Exam
Dilated eye exams are a crucial part of retinal diagnostics and testing. During a dilated eye exam, special eye drops are applied to the eyes to keep the pupils from getting smaller. Pupils are the black circles at the center of our eyes and their primary function is to control how much light enters the eye. When in the presence of bright light, the pupil becomes smaller, which would make it difficult for ophthalmologists to properly observe the inside of the eye. The eye drops help to keep the pupils open and allow your doctor to see your retina, macula, and optic nerve.
Once the eye drops are administered, it takes about 15-30 minutes for your eyes to become fully dilated. Eye dilation typically lasts for about 4-6 hours and can make your eyes more sensitive to light. Blurred vision is also common after a dilated eye exam, as well as trouble focusing on fine details. We recommend that patients plan on having someone drive them home after their exam.
Retinal Imaging Tests
Diagnostic retinal exams rely heavily on advanced imaging techniques to identify the presence of retinal, macular, and vitreous conditions.
Fluorescein angiography is an imaging technique that uses a special, light-sensitive dye injected into the bloodstream to highlight the ocular blood vessels. Once the dye has reached the eyes, a camera is used to capture images of the retinal vascular system and observe any abnormalities. Fluorescein angiography is often used in the diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy, retinal vein occlusions, and macular degeneration.
Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)
Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a non-invasive imaging test that uses light waves to capture high-resolution images of the retina. OCT allows your doctor to diagnose and monitor retinal conditions by measuring the retina’s thickness and observing the retina’s different layers. OCT is used as the standard of diagnostic care for a wide range of retinal and macular conditions, including macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, macular puckers, and macular edema.
Amsler Grid Test
The Amsler Grid test is a non-invasive test that assesses changes in central vision. The test consists of a simple black grid printed on white paper with a black dot in the very center. If the macula is damaged, patients will see the lines in the grid as being wavy, broken, or distorted. Not only can Amsler Grids help identify the presence of retinal diseases, but they can also be used at home by patients to self-monitor changes to their central vision. This is especially useful for patients with dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD). By monitoring changes in their central vision and reporting them to their doctor, AMD patients have a better chance of preventing vision loss.