A black and white icon of OCT machine

What is Ocular Coherence Tomography
...and Do I Need It?

someone having an eye test wearing trial frame for refraction
spectacle frame front glasses icon
Uncut spectacle lens for glazing into glasses
Finger holding a contact lens
A black and white icon of an Optical Coherence Tomography machine
schematic eye with eye infection showing blood vessels

What is an OCT Scan?

An OCT Scan is an advanced hospital-grade scan of the retina, the light sensitive structure at the back of your eye. The retina is invisible to most traditional photography of the inside of the eye. In order to make it visible, a series of scans using infra-red light are taken and combined to make a picture of the 7 retinal layers which can then be examined to give a greater insight into ocular health.

Quite simply, it makes invisible tissue visible - like an ultrasound but using light. It is entirely painless and takes about 3 minutes to complete.

OCT Scans also give a much better assessment of the elevations of the internal structure of the eye and can produce a 3D map of the inner back surface.

An image of an OCT B-Scan showing a healthy retina
An OCT Scan can be likened to an 'MRI' for your eye

Who should have an OCT Scan?

OCT scans are suitable for:

What conditions can an OCT Scan detect earlier than other methods?

  1. Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD): OCT has played a significant role in the early detection of AMD, a leading cause of vision loss in older adults. A study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology in 2004 found that OCT imaging enabled the identification of subclinical AMD-related changes in the retina, even before the appearance of visible signs or symptoms.
  2. Diabetic Retinopathy (DR): Diabetic retinopathy is another condition where early detection is crucial to prevent vision loss. A study published in Ophthalmology in 2009 showed that OCT imaging facilitated the detection of microaneurysms, retinal thickening, and other early signs of diabetic retinopathy, often before they were clinically apparent.
  3. Glaucoma: OCT has been extensively utilized in the early diagnosis and management of glaucoma. A study published in Ophthalmology in 2002 demonstrated that OCT imaging can accurately assess the thickness of the retinal nerve fiber layer, a key indicator of glaucomatous damage, allowing for early detection and monitoring of the disease.
  4. Macular Holes and Epiretinal Membranes: OCT has greatly improved the detection and characterization of macular holes and epiretinal membranes, conditions that affect the central part of the retina. OCT imaging provides high-resolution cross-sectional images, aiding in the early diagnosis and assessment of these conditions.
  5. Retinal Vascular Diseases: OCT has proven useful in the early detection and evaluation of various retinal vascular diseases, such as retinal vein occlusion and macular edema. It allows for precise measurements of retinal thickness and the visualization of fluid accumulation in the macula, facilitating early intervention.

Further Information on OCT


What Does It Look Like?

An image of the Optopol REVO FC machine that Wallace Opticians uses to detect eye conditions
Our Optopol REVO FC

What does the scan report look like?

A sample report from a retinal OCT scan showing a normal retina
Sample OCT report with B scan, photographs and nerve fibre analysis

Does everyone need it?

Not everyone needs an OCT scan. Here are some reasons that an OCT scan may not be suitable.

  1. Healthy and Perfectly Performing Eyes: If a person's eyes are healthy, with no history or signs of eye disease, they may not require or benefit from OCT scans. These scans are often used to detect or monitor conditions, so in an uncompromised eye, they may not provide additional beneficial information. Even in a healthy eye, a baseline measurement can be useful to help detect conditions in the future.
  2. Ocular Opacity: In some cases, OCT may not give reliable results. This could be due to a number of factors, such as dense cataracts or corneal opacities that prevent light from properly reaching the retina, or significant eye movement or blinking during the test that can cause motion artifact and distort images.
  3. Young Children or Non-cooperative Patients: OCT requires a certain level of cooperation from the patient to hold a steady gaze for about 5 seconds. Very young children or patients with cognitive impairments might not be able to cooperate sufficiently, making the OCT scan difficult and less beneficial.
  4. Cost and Accessibility: OCT machines are expensive and not universally available. If a person does not have access to a facility with an OCT machine, or if the cost of the scan is prohibitive they might not benefit from this procedure. The cost for an OCT scan at a private hospital can be in excess of £200. Thankfully, we are able to offer OCT scan at Wallace Opticians in Whitburn for only £25.