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.

During a traditional eye exam, an eye doctor dilates your eyes with special eyedrops and then checks your retinas for abnormalities using tools such as 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. The images can be studied to check for abnormalities and saved in your medical record to compare the condition of your retinas from year to year.

Although laser retina scans can detect some retinal abnormalities, the scans have limitations. For example, laser retina scans might not detect problems on the outside edges of the retinas, where serious problems can occur.

If you choose to have a laser retina scan, make sure it's a complement to — not a substitute for — a traditional eye exam. A traditional exam 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 medical insurance.

Oct. 03, 2014