The Importance of Taking a Retinal Photograph

The Importance of Taking a Retinal Photograph

It’s this time of the year where everyone’s busy with organising their holidays. Everyone has a bag full of Christmas presents and… getting their photos taken with Santa with their children. Have you ever thought that a simple retinal photograph of your eyes can tell us a lot about your eye health?

A Brief History

The first-ever concept of a retinal camera was conceived in the 1920s and not long afterwards developed the world’s first retinal camera that could only provide a field of view of about 20 degrees. This allowed the optic nerve and occasionally the macula to be imaged on the same photograph. Over time, as with photography, higher resolution and different imaging techniques will enable the practitioner, the optometrist, to evaluate your eye health in great detail. Along with the improvements in technology, retinal images are captured faster, without pupil dilation, and in very high resolution. This makes digital retinal photography an indispensable tool for evaluating your overall eye health.

The Cost of a Digital Retinal Camera

Like cameras, the cost of implementing digital retinal imaging in everyday practice varies between different clinical settings. A basic secondhand no-frills retinal camera costs between $2000 – $5000. A retinal camera with all the different imaging modalities such as enhancing images for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma could cost as much as $80 000.

To recover the initial cost of the retinal camera, the most optometry practice would charge between $20 – $80 depending on their business model and type of camera they have. It is important to show a bit of appreciation that not all retinal cameras are created equal. There are cheap mobile iPhone attachments for sale around $200 which can allow a mobile device to take a retinal photograph natively. Although they can provide a similar image quality as an $80 000, they are not adequate for monitoring or to be used for ongoing treatment of certain eye diseases like AMD. They are, no doubt, a good screening device and often used in vision screening programs.

A Retinal Photograph is Perfect for Monitoring Changes

Think about the core reason for taking photographs. You want to preserve the memory. Taking a picture with Santa costs about $40. And if you do that every year, something very magical happens. You can see how quickly your children have grown; their appearance, their size and even how they pose in front of Santa.

We use retinal photographs in the same manner. Subtle pathological changes are picked up with consecutive retinal images. This is particularly important for patients with diabetes, which is used to detect tiny haemorrhages or bleeding in the retina due to high blood sugar levels. It is recommended that patients with diabetes to have annual eye examinations with retinal imaging, so their eye practitioner can discuss any changes, and provide the necessary advice to maintain good eye health.

The Bottom Line

Digital Retinal Imaging is an invaluable tool to help us, the optometrists, to evaluate and discuss your eye health. They allow subtle changes within the retina to be recorded and advise on your eye health accordingly. There is a range of different methods in capturing the retinal image of your eyes. With the improvements in technology, we can now see further and deeper into your eye health.

With the cost comparable to your annual Santa photos, this is by far the most cost-effective ways in managing your eye health.