The Importance of Regular Retinal Exams

Posted on April 2, 2024 • by RCA • in RCA Featured Blog Posts

Originally published by Palmetto Retina Center

Comprehensive, dilated exams are particularly vital for your retina, as they enable your ophthalmologist to detect any disorders early on before they worsen. They can then begin any treatment, helping to slow or prevent further damage and preserve your precious vision.

How Often to Have Retinal Eye Exams

A regular dilated ophthalmological examination is recommended for men and women of all ages. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), those between the ages of 18-64 who are healthy without existing conditions should get an exam at least every two years, while those 65 and over should have one annually. This exam is especially crucial if you’re African American, over age 40, have diabetes or high blood pressure, or have a family history of glaucoma.

At age 40, everyone, even if healthy, should visit their ophthalmologist for a baseline eye disease screening. Providing an overview of eye health, including the retina, this age is when vision changes and early disease signs typically start. You’ll be told when to schedule a follow-up exam, enabling your ophthalmologist to monitor any eye changes.

A Vital Tool for Underlying Retinal Conditions

Beyond providing a detailed overview of your overall eye and vision health, a comprehensive, dilated exam is the only method to identify retinal conditions, such as diabetic retinopathy, in their earliest stages.

With this condition, diabetes raises blood glucose levels, gradually harming the retina’s tiny blood vessels, and leading to swelling, bleeding, or fluid leakage. Without treatment, your retina can be scarred and damaged, and vision changes or blindness may occur. According to the American Diabetes Association, anyone with diabetes should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.

Educate Yourself About Retinal Eye Exams

So now that you know why this exam is needed, and how often, what should you expect during the actual visit? Your first visit will be more in-depth, taking a minimum of 2-3 hours, or even longer, if extensive testing is required, and will include retinal testing, a full examination, and a discussion of your condition with your retina specialist.

Your doctor will apply special eye drops to dilate, or widen your eyes, providing a clear view of the back of the eye, including the retina. Generally, this dilation lasts for up to 4 hours or more, particularly if you have darker-colored eyes. You’ll find that your pupils remain open and take in more light, making you more sensitive to bright light, so you may need someone to drive you home.

Request a Retina Consultation

If it’s been a while since your last eye exam, now is a good time to schedule one, especially if you have any concerns about retinal conditions or related risk factors. Having a comprehensive, dilated eye exam is one of the most effective methods to ensure your continued retinal health and general vision. If you’d like to request a retinal consultation, we invite you to contact Palmetto Retina Center for an appointment.

Find a Retina Consultants of America Doctor Near You