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What is Retinal Imaging & Why is it Important?

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If you want to protect your vision and keep your eyes healthy, it is essential to visit your optometrist for regular adult and senior eye exams, as well as bringing your kids for their eye exams

During your eye exam, an optometrist should perform retinal imaging, a crucial test to check your eye health. But what exactly is retinal imaging and why is it so important? 

What is Retinal Imaging? 

Unlike other medical treatments, eye exams do not only provide solutions to issues you are already aware of, they catch problems that are undiagnosed before they get worse. As our eyes are three-dimensional, issues that are occurring behind the surface of the eye cannot be seen by simply looking at the eye. 

Retinal imaging offers an excellent view of your eye. Through using detailed imaging, an optometrist is able to see the internal structure of your eye, including the retina, optic nerve, and retinal blood vessels. This is possible by using a high-resolution, wide-field retinal camera. The image is taken using an optomap, creating a 200-degree view of the retina. 

After the image is taken, the optometrist can then analyze the image for any potential issues. This process is completely painless and has no side effects on your vision or eyes. Once analyzed, you can rest assured you are better protected from the eye diseases below.  

Pupil Dilation 

If you have been visiting your optometrist for regular visits, you have probably heard them talk about having your pupils dilated. Pupil dilation is a process that is very similar in its intention to retinal imaging. 

Pupil dilation is also used to examine the health of your retina and optic nerve. However, after you have completed the test, you will experience blurred vision and light sensitivity. These side effects can be frustrating for many patients as they limit their accessibility for a few hours. 

Not only does retinal imaging not come with these side effects, but it also offers a wider view of your eye (about four to five times wider)! While pupil dilation still may be needed in some cases, this makes retinal imaging an effective alternative for most patients. 

Why is Retinal Imaging Important?

During your eye exam, a variety of tests are done to check most aspects of your eye health and vision. Using retinal imaging allows the optometrist to view the areas of your eye that cannot be seen without advanced technology. This technology can help optometrists catch eye disease before it can cause serious damage. 

The main diseases that retinal imaging can detect are glaucoma and macular degeneration. These are clearly visible by using the optomap’s 200-degree scan during the retinal imaging.

Before retinal imaging, optometrists could use pupil dilation to view and analyze the area behind your eye. However, this view is not even close to the view that is offered by the optomap and retinal imaging. Retinal imaging allows optometrists to better understand a patient’s vision and the internal structure of their eyes. 


Glaucoma is a serious eye disease that affects your optic nerve. If glaucoma has set in, the information that travels between your eyes and brain can be interrupted. This can cause a loss of vision or blindness. If glaucoma is caught early, it can be treated, protecting against vision loss. 

Visiting your optometrist for an eye exam and retinal imaging allows for a high-resolution image to be taken of your optic nerve. Having this image of your optic nerve can help your optometrist diagnose glaucoma and suggest treatment. 

Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration occurs in the central area of the retina, the area that controls your eye’s visual activity. If this area of your retina is damaged, blurred vision and blind spots can be created. 

This issue is important to catch early because of its treatments. Treatments that are recommended are injections into the eye or possibly laser eye surgery. However, just like glaucoma, this disease can be caught with retinal imaging. 

If you are at risk of either of these diseases, it is highly recommended that you visit your optometrist for retinal imaging.  

Young lady gets her eyes examined by the optometrist.

Selecting Retinal Imaging 

The technology behind retinal imaging is truly amazing. Being able to have this 200-degree view of the eye using an optomap allows us to provide patients with the best service possible, ensuring their eyes are healthy and their vision is clear. 

With eye disease often remaining undetected if you are not visiting for regular eye exams, you are putting your eyes at serious risk of developing the diseases above or ones potentially worse. 

If you would like to learn more about retinal imaging or the other tests and services we offer, please book an appointment now

Written by Dr. Kent Prete

An active member of the Canadian Association of Optometrists, the Alberta Association of Optometrists, and the Alberta College of Optometrists, Dr. Prete lives his passion every day when he sees his patients. Dr. Prete has spoken at over 100 professional events over the last almost 20 years. A keen educator and confident doctor, Dr. Prete is nearly as passionate about educating other eye care professionals as he is about caring for and educating his patients!
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