What is an OCT Scan?

OCT stands for Optical Coherence Tomography and is a scan through the structure of the back of the eye. It looks a bit like an ultrasound, but it uses red light to scan through. 


What is the benefit for me?

We are sure you want to know that your eyes are healthy. An OCT scan provides additional peace of mind and reassurance that your eyes are as healthy as we think they are. It allows us to detect signs of eye disease at a much earlier stage, often years before we can detect problems with more traditional methods of examination. This is particularly relevant for glaucoma and macula degeneration. Early detection of eye disease allows for better protection of your vision.


An example of an OCT scan showing the layers of the retina



Does it hurt?

It is painless and harmless and takes seconds to perform.


Why do we use it?

This technology is a bit like the eye’s version of an MRI-scan or ultrasound, in that it provides a much more detailed, 3D assessment of the back of your eye. It allows us to look at the layers of the retina (the back of the eye) rather than just looking at the top of the retina – a bit like looking down onto a cake, we can see the icing but can’t see the layers inside the cake. The OCT allows us to see these layers. This is where the OCT scan is so useful. The scan is like a slice through the cake so we can see the structure of the part of the eye we want to look at. It provides a permanent, digital record of how your eyes look at a specific moment in time, providing a baseline for all future visits. Uniquely, the OCT software can analyse subsequent scans to detect signs of change that may be the indication of early eye disease.

Who needs a scan?

The scan is useful in a whole host of different situations; if we see something that needs investigation or vision has dropped and doesn't improve with glasses. One of the most useful aspects of the OCT is for looking for glaucoma, and is recommended that everyone with a family history of glaucoma has a scan every 12 months. Because the scan shows us the structure it can show us if nerve cells in the retina are changing which can be a precursor to glaucoma, whereas some  traditional methods for glaucoma checking, such as visual fields, can only show when the eye is already damaged. The really great use of the OCT is actually in monitoring healthy eyes. We recommend it's use in every patient over 40 and for specific situations in younger patients. If you have a family history of glaucoma or macula degeneration then you really do need to be having regular OCT scans.


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