Is a laser retina scan necessary? My optometrist offers the test, but I'm not sure if I need it.

Answers from Dennis Robertson, M.D.

For most people, a laser retina scan isn't necessary.

During a traditional eye exam, an eye doctor dilates your eyes with special eyedrops and then checks your retinas for abnormalities using an ophthalmoscope — a lighted magnifying instrument. During a laser retina scan, such as Optomap, your eyes may or may not be dilated. A laser scans your eyes and then produces digital images of your retinas. Your eye doctor can use the images to check for abnormalities. The images can be saved in your medical record and used to compare the condition of your retinas from year to year.

Some research suggests that laser retina scans can help eye doctors diagnose problems in the retinas. Still, laser retina scans have limitations. For example, although a laser retina scan captures a wide angle view of the retinas, the test might not detect problems on the outside edges of the retinas.

If you choose to have a laser retina scan, make it a complement to — not a substitute for — a traditional eye exam. This is especially important if you're at high risk of retinal conditions. You might also consider what the procedure costs and whether it's covered by your medial insurance.

Sep. 03, 2011 See more Expert Answers