Not a Thousand, but a Million Words
It is said a picture is worth a thousand words, but imagine getting the chance to look at something that
is not seen everyday. Seeing the inside of your eye is not something you can do by simply looking in
A perfect scenario occurred a few months ago at Buena Vista Optical. An 18-year-old patient came in for a regular comprehensive eye exam. He had no medical problems and no visual concerns nor complaints. Sadly, he walked out being diagnosed with choroidal melanoma, in other words a tumor of the retina. It was one thing to tell the patient the findings that day, but to be able to show him and his mother made all the difference.Therefore, in my opinion retinal photos are worth not a thousand, but a million words.
Sadly, not all primary care optometry practices have a fundus camera. One of the reasons being that many vision insurances do not cover this component of the eye exam. Whether or not the patient’s vision plan covers the retinal photos, Buena Vista Optical takes fundus photos of all of their patients. Buena Vista recognizes the importance of having retinal imaging available and documented for every patient regardless of age or background medical history.
Including a product such as the Nidek AFC 330 within the optical has made all the difference, especially since it is user friendly as well as patient friendly. Buena Vista Optical believes fundus photos should be an essential part of the routine eye exam for every patient since early signs of an eye disease can be detected at any age. Due to the Nidek AFC 330 being patient friendly, Buena Vista Optical has been able to keep on file retinal photos of patients as young as 2-years-old. This is important since some findings can be congenital in other words, present since birth. One example being a congenital retinal pigment that can simply be something such as a common birthmark. However, it is possible for these pigments to grow and develop into a more serious condition later on in life.
With this being said, it is highly recommended for optometrists to monitor these changes annually, since many patients do not experience any early signs or symptoms of any sort. With the help of the Nidek AFC 330 fundus camera it is simple to monitor each patient accordingly at an early age. “The AFC-330 reduces flash intensity by 40% and sound of the shutter by 50% compared to its predecessor, the AFC-230 / 210” (NIDEK), making it manageable to obtain retinal photos from toddlers. On a more serious note, a retinal camera such as the Nidek AFC 330 is an aid for detecting diseases at an early stage that can cause damage to the eye leading to visual impairment. Some examples are diabetic retinopathy, caused by diabetes.
There is always going to be that patient who is asked if they have any medical problems or taking any medication and their answer is “no”. Ironically, this patient has not visited the doctor in the past 20 years and has leaking blood vessels in the interior surface of their eye. Retinal photos are extremely helpful in this scenario.
From personal experience, when a person who is not aware of their diabetes takes a look at the bleeding inside of their eye first hand, they became highly concerned on the issue, more so than by verbally telling the patient. Having a visual aid for the patient really motivates them to take action. In many cases the doctor will educate the patient that it is not too late to make changes in their lifestyle.
Another eye disease that can be detected early if the patient has an annual eye exam is glaucoma, which is damage of the optic nerve. Since glaucoma is a complex eye disease it is important to keep in mind that not everyone with high eye pressure will eventually develop glaucoma or has glaucoma. Retinal photos come in handy in these types of situations. Although a patient might have ocular hypertension his/her optic nerve might look perfectly healthy. With retinal photos on file, optometrists are able to refer back to them each year and monitor any changes of the optic nerve. If drastic changes occur to the optic nerve or the nerve begins to look suspicious the optometrist will be able to refer the patient to a retinal specialist. On the other hand, if the patient has eye pressure above the normal range and a suspicious optic nerve while taking a look at the retinal photos on that first visit then the optometrist is able to refer the patient to a specialist immediately for treatment. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness and even though there is no cure it can be treated if caught on time.
Lastly, macular degeneration is another major eye disease that, like glaucoma, has no cure and no specific cause. Doctors however recommend not smoking, regular exercise, and a healthy diet as a way to prevent macular degeneration. Due to having unclear evidence of the cause of macular degeneration patients should be monitored annually with the use of fundus photos. Having the Nidek AFC 330 available is important specially when detecting early signs of macular degeneration, which is drusen. Drusen can be easily overlooked since they tend to start out as very tiny yellow particles. But, with the Nidek AFC 330 retinal camera, it is clear to point out even the smallest signs of macular degeneration. Macular degeneration can be a normal and slow aging process, but this is not always the case. Macular degeneration can advance and rapidly cause immediate decrease in vision within a few weeks and even lead to blindness. Therefore, precautions must be taken right away, regardless if the severity is mild.
The following reasons alone would convince most of the importance of a retinal camera: patient education, early detection, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. Yet there are still vast amounts of eye diseases that were unmentioned and there are still many optometry offices without a retinal camera. Seeing that not all opticals have a retinal camera is frightening. If a retinal camera could save at least one person’s eyesight it means it is good investment. Investing in a retinal camera like the Nidek AFC 330 will not only give the patient pictures worth a million words, it will give the opportunity to preserve their vision, which has no price tag and infinite value.