OCT stands for Optical Coherence Tomography. Put most simply, the OCT takes pictures of the back of your eye. Why is this important? The OCT helps your doctor see the layers of the retina and optic nerve in the eye. Before this type of technology was available, doctors could only see this view of an eye with tissue sections after the patient was deceased or if the eye was removed. The OCT allows for early diagnosis and improved management of various eye problems (like glaucoma and macular degeneration) with better accuracy.
Your eye is made up of an intricate network of organs and tissues all working together to make your vision possible. Your eye itself doesn’t actually do the “seeing” for you. It’s your brain, and it does this through information given to the retina of the eye that the brain then receives. The outer layer of your eye is the cornea, or the clear film that covers your eye. Behind it is a chamber full of liquid that rests in front of your pupil (black circle), and the colored part of your eye (iris). Light will go through these layers and will pass through the pupil and through your lens.
That lens works just like a camera does. It takes in light information from the objects you look at. Your pupil will get bigger or smaller to let the right amount of light in. That light then travels towards the back of the eye, where it will hit your retina tissue. This tissue is highly important to making vision possible. In fact, if your retina is damaged, your vision will be damaged as well.
The retina is a very thin tissue that carries millions of microscopic nerve cells that are light-sensitive. Those cells are known as “rods” and “cones” and are responsible for your color vision and interpreting individual colors. The center of the retina is known as the “macula”. This area is responsible for sharp, detailed vision. If damaged, your vision is lost or becomes blurry. Rod nerve cells give you peripheral vision and cone cells help with central vision. Depending on which cells are damaged, you will either lose central vision, peripheral vision or both. Diseases involving the retina can set in over time, and damage can happen to a severe point before you are aware of it.
Your retina and the optic nerve go hand-in-hand when it comes to their importance. Your optic nerve is the connecting nerve between your brain and the retina. The retina can take in as much light information as it wants, but if there is no way to transmit that information somewhere, you won’t see. The optic nerve is where light information is sent through countless nerves as information. Your eye receives the light and the retina interprets it. The brain knows what your seeing because that message is sent through the optic nerve. In that way, the brain is what really does the “seeing”, as your vision is an interpretation of light waves that the brain makes into objects.
Both the retina and optic nerve must be healthy and functional to provide you clear vision. It’s crucial to keep up on eye exams to detect eye diseases that would damage the retina. We use digital retinal imaging and Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) exams to assess the health of the retina, optic nerve and retinal structures.
Our digital camera snaps a high-resolution digital picture of your retina with digital retinal imaging to track any changes in your eyes over time. Using Optical Coherence Tomography, we use a scanner to achieve higher resolution pictures of the structural layers of the back of the eye. This diagnostic technique is similar to ultrasound and employs light rather than sound waves to take pictures of internal structures.
A scanning laser analyzes the layers of your retina and optic nerve for any signs of eye disease, similar to a CT scan of the eye. OCT uses light without radiation and is essential for early diagnosis of glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinal disease. With an OCT scan, our eye doctors are provided with color-coded, cross-sectional images of the retina. OCT scan images are revolutionary because they are one of the best ways to detect eye diseases when they are in their earliest stages.
When diseases of the eyes are caught early, it is much more likely that you will be able to keep your vision for years to come. This is especially true of macular degeneration, retinal detachment, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma, all of which lead to blindness from retinal damage.
Macular degeneration affects over 10 million Americans and is the leading cause of vision loss in patients. It’s irreversible once that retinal damage happens, and central, clear vision is affected. For patients with diabetes, the effect on blood sugar levels and complications with the blood vessels in the body can affect the blood vessels in your eye. This can mean that blood is not flowing to nerve cells in the eyes. This can damage retinal nerves and your ability to see over time, especially if swelling is present in the eye with diabetic retinopathy.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that leads to blindness as it damages the optic nerve. At least 5% of people over age 65 get glaucoma. The effects of this disease can be stunted or stopped with early detection and intervention. No matter if an OCT scan detects these diseases or others, that detection can ensure you don’t go blind. If you value your vision, and if you have a history of eye diseases, make sure you schedule an OCT scan today. You can also keep up on your regular eye exams by calling Peeper’s Optical today at (303) 223-0401!