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Many optical practices now offer the option of having an optical coherence tomography (OCT) scan, alongside your sight test, or during a separate visit. The OCT scan provides the optometrist with additional information that can help contribute to a more accurate diagnosis and a more detailed record of the health of your eyes. The optometrist, or an assistant at the practice, takes a high-quality scan of the back of your eyes to see your retina in more detail. The images produced provide information about your eye health and may help your optometrist detect some eye conditions, such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy or age-related macular degeneration (AMD), with a greater degree of certainty.

There may be an additional charge for an OCT scan.

Do I need an OCT scan?

The routine sight test is good at detecting signs of eye disease. However, it can sometimes be difficult for your optometrist to decide whether the back of your eye is normal or if there is an abnormality that needs treatment. Without an OCT machine the optometrist may refer you to hospital to have this done free of charge. If your optometrist has an OCT machine they can offer to investigate this for you to see if you need to be referred for treatment. There may be an additional charge for an OCT scan, so if you do not want to pay for this, your optometrist may refer you to a specialist at the hospital to have this done free of charge.

OCT scans can also be used to monitor the progress of signs of ageing or wear and tear in your eye, and some optometrists recommend taking an OCT scan to use as a record of what is normal for you. They can then compare any scans taken at future appointments with this baseline scan to help them detect subtle changes which could be an early sign of some eye conditions.

How does the OCT scan work?

You will be asked to sit in front of the scanner and rest your chin on the chin rest. The machine will scan your eyes using low powered laser light to take images of the structures inside your eye, most commonly your retina – the thin layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye – and your optic nerve. It scans your eye without touching it. The scan doesn’t hurt, but some people may find the bright light a little uncomfortable. The process is over in a few seconds. When it is finished, your optometrist will go through your results with you.

Is an OCT scan safe?

The OCT scanner is CE marked and the low powered laser light is safe, and cannot harm your eye. The OCT scan is suitable for use with people fitted with pacemakers or metallic implants and you can wear your hearing aid throughout the procedure.

Can I refuse to have an OCT scan?

Yes. An OCT scan is not compulsory and you can decide whether or not you wish to have one.

What will happen to the images?

Your optometrist will keep your images on your file. They will refer to your previous scan the next time you have your eyes examined to see if there have been any significant changes to your eye. You are entitled to have copies of the images, if you wish.


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