• While up to 90% of all vision loss is preventable, many eye diseases and conditions have few or no early symptoms, meaning that many people don’t realise that anything is amiss until their eyesight starts to deteriorate or an optometrist picks up on subtle changes through a retinal photograph.

  • Retinal photographs are one of the many digital tools that our optometrists here at The Optical Co use to pick up on any issues as soon as they arise, so that you can get started on a treatment and management plan as quickly as possible. A retinal photograph allows your optometrist to see your eyes more closely and precisely, by using a high-resolution camera to take a picture of the back of your eye, which can reveal symptoms such as damaged blood vessels due to diabetes, macular degeneration caused by age, and glaucoma, all of which can lead to vision loss without appropriate treatment. Not only this, but a retinal photograph can even detect other serious health concerns in your body including brain tumours, strokes and more.

  • Your eyesight is one of your most precious assets, and our highly qualified optometrists are committed to helping you protect your vision and overall eye health for years to come. The retinal photographing process is fast and painless, and the images are seen almost immediately. So what is actually seen on a retinal photograph, and what conditions can an optometrist interpret from the results? Let’s take a closer look.


What Is A Retinal Photograph?

  • A retinal photograph takes a high-resolution digital picture of the back of your eye, which shows your retina (a thin layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of your eye where light and images hit), your optic disk (a small dot on the retina that holds the optic nerve, which sends information to the brain), and blood vessels.

  • At The Optical Co, we include retinal photography as part of our comprehensive eye exam which is recommended every two years here in Australia,[1] and every year if you’re over the age of 65. We store your images digitally, and each time you visit us, our optometry team can compare your retinal photographs side-by-side over time to monitor your eye health and pick up on any issues as early as possible.

  • There are a few different retinal photography methods that your optometrist can use to inspect your eye, including:

  • •  Optical coherence tomography

  • •  Fundus photography

  • •  Angiography

  • There are distinct benefits for each method above, and your optometrist will select the best imaging techniques for your individual eye and vision needs.


Six Conditions That Optometrists Can Interpret From A Retinal Photograph

  • Optometrists can interpret a wide range of eye conditions and diseases from a retinal photograph, including:


1. Diabetic Retinopathy

  • Diabetic retinopathy is a condition in which the blood vessels in the retinal become damaged by consistently high blood sugar levels, and it is a complication often seen in patients with diabetes.

  • In a retinal photograph, diabetic retinopathy will present with symptoms such as:

  • •  Swollen veins in the retina

  • •  Bleeding in the vitreous, the normally-clear gel that fills your eye

  • •  New or abnormal blood vessels

  • •  Possible scar tissue in advanced stages

  • •  Possible retinal detachment in advanced stages, whereby the retina pulls away from its normal position at the back of the eye


2. Hypertensive Retinopathy

  • People who have chronic hypertension, or blood pressure that has been high for a long period of time, can develop a condition called hypertensive retinopathy, which can progress to loss of vision if left untreated.

  • The signs and symptoms of hypertensive retinopathy can include:

  • •  Exudates or fatty deposits on the retina

  • •  Bleeding in the retina

  • •  White specks that resemble cotton wool, which indicate possible micro strokes


3. Retinal Tear and Detachment

  • On rare occasions, a retina may tear or even completely peel away or detach from the back of the eye. A detached retina is one of the more serious eye conditions and is considered a medical emergency, as it can lead to vision loss without urgent medical care.

  • Retinal tears and retinal detachments can indicate a range of conditions including age-related macular degeneration, eye injury and more, and occasionally retinal detachment can occur in the advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy.

  • A retinal photograph reveals signs of retinal damage or detachment such as:

  • •  Grey discolouration of the retina

  • •  Folds in the retina where it has detached

  • •  Twisted blood vessels


4. Papilledema

  • Papilledema is the medical term for when the optic nerve becomes swollen as a result of increased pressure in the brain, which can indicate other underlying conditions such as:

  • •  Very high blood pressure

  • •  Eye injury or trauma

  • •  Head injury or trauma

  • •  Encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain

  • •  Meningitis

  • •  Stroke

  • •  Tumours in the eye or brain

  • Optometrists will look for the following symptoms of papilledema in a retinal photograph:

  • •  A swollen optic nerve

  • •  Bleeding in the retina near the optic nerve

  • •  Dilated or twisted blood vessels


5. Optic Atrophy

  • Optic atrophy is the medical term for damage to the optic nerve, which is responsible for transporting images from the eye to the brain. Optic atrophy can be caused by medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, cranial arteritis and tumours in the brain, and it can result in gradual vision loss over time.

  • A retinal photograph can reveals signs of optic atrophy such as:

  • •  A pale white optic nerve

  • •  An optic nerve with sharp and clear edges

  • •  Normal veins, but narrow arteries


Don’t Delay: Get Your Eyes Checked Today At The Optical Co

  • It’s reassuring to know that many eye conditions and diseases can be detected in the very early stages before any noticeable symptoms through retinal photography, which is included as part of our comprehensive eye examination with our qualified optometrists at The Optical Co. As well as retinal photography, a comprehensive exam may also include:

  • •  Going through your personal and family health history, detailing when any concerning symptoms began, medications you’re taking, work and environmental factors, and more

  • •  Visual acuity measurements using reading charts to assess exactly how clearly each eye can see

  • •  Tests of your eye health which may include depth perception, colour vision, peripheral (side) vision and how your pupils respond to light

  • •  Assessments to measure which power of lens you require to correct near-sightedness, far-sightedness or astigmatism

  • •  Eye focusing, eye teaming and eye movement activities to examine how well your eyes focus, move and work together

  • •  Measurement of the pressure within the eye.

  • •  Fluorescein angiography to detect any abnormal blood vessel growth.

  • After your exam is completed, your optometrist will be able to discuss your diagnosis and treatment plan options with you to protect your eye health, best correct your vision, if needed, and help give you the freedom to do the things you love.

  • At The Optical Co, our friendly optometrists offer targeted care for a wide range of conditions. Every treatment plan is designed uniquely for your needs, preferences, and to help optimise your quality of life. Our optometrist will also be able to refer you to an ophthalmologist, or eye doctor specialising in surgery, for more complex treatment, if needed.


Don’t delay treatment, get your eyes checked today. To book your comprehensive eye exam, with one of our experienced team members, contact one of your local clinics here.

[1] https://www.visionaustralia.org/information/eye-health/eye-care