What is Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)?
Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is a screening technology that uses light waves to take cross-section pictures of your retina. It is a non-destructive medical imaging technique that many optometrists use, and it does not destroy healthy tissues. The ophthalmologist can see each of the retina’s distinctive layers. This aids the ophthalmologist with mapping and measuring their thickness. It is the technology for the future because it enhances patient care, and has the ability to detect problems in the eye prior to any symptoms being present in the patient. These measurements help with diagnosis.
- OCT provides a look at different layers of cells inside the eye. It uses a non-contact optical sensing light to capture micrometer-resolution, two- and three-dimensional images from within optical scattering media.
- OCT is an imaging process that generates a picture of the back of the eye, the retina. The picture shows a precise measurement of the amount of a dim red light that reflects off the retina. It also provides images of the eye that may show glaucoma.
- A new study suggests that having OCT screening may help catch early problems with the eyes and the heart.
Eye Scanning Can Detect The Following:
- The tiny blood vessels that supply your retina can be a telltale sign of diabetes—often before other symptoms have led to a formal diagnosis of the disease.
- High Blood Pressure
- Thyroid disease
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Brain tumors
- High cholesterol
Eye Lesions And The Impact On The Retna
Retinal Ischemic Perivascular Lesions (RIPLs) are permanent marks left on the retina due to inadequate blood flow to the retina. When the retina receives less blood and oxygen than it expects this can damage retinal tissue over time. RIPLs can be a biomarker for cardiovascular disease ( Long et al ). While optometrists can perform a careful evaluation of the retina for RIPLs through OCT testing. Optometrists and ophthalmologists have been using other methods to directly examine retinal blood vessels for vascular changes such as:
- Slit-lamp biomicroscopy
- Binocular indirect ophthalmoscopy
- Retinal photography
“The retina is a unique site where the microcirculation can be imaged directly. Thus, it provides a window for detecting changes in microvasculature relating to the development of cardiovascular diseases such as arterial hypertension or coronary heart disease.”
The CDC facts about cardiovascular diseases:
- Heart disease is the “leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups” in the United States, and “1 person dies every 36 seconds in the US from cardiovascular disease,
- “About 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year- that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.”.
- Risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking, and high cholesterol. People who are obese, have an unhealthy diet, are diabetic, don’t get enough exercise, and who drink alcohol excessively are also at higher risk for cardiovascular complications.
Some researchers conclude that the blood vessels inside the eye are so similar in structure to those of the heart. They are so easily accessible that the eyes can be a window to one’s heart health. “The vasculature of the eye and the heart share several common characteristics. There is an interplay between cardiovascular functions and risk factors and the occurrence and progression of many eye diseases. In particular, arteriovenous nipping, narrowing of retinal arteries, and the dilation of retinal veins are important signs of increased cardiovascular risk.”
Other Common Eye Disorders and Diseases That Can Be Seen Thru The Eyes Are:
- Refractive Errors.
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration.
- Diabetic Retinopathy.
Getting an annual eye exam, as well as any additional diagnostic testing the eye doctor may suggest, are crucial steps in keeping one’s eye health and heart health at their best.
By Dr. Cheryl G. Murphy, OD