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The OCT Exam: Powerful Tech for Early Detection

looking into an OCT machine

If you’re planning a trip to the optometrist or have been poking around online, you’ve might’ve heard about the OCT exam and its ability to spot eye conditions and diseases. But what is the OCT machine, what issues can it detect, and how does it work? In this new article, we’re answering all that and more.


What is OCT?

OCT, which stands for Optical Coherence Tomography, is a type of diagnostic technology that’s super efficient at picking up eye conditions and anything else going on in our eyes. It’s a big table-top machine that most optometrists will have in their office that requires you to rest your head on a support and gaze into it.

This powerful OCT technology is used by heart and vascular medicine professionals to generate images of blood vessels, along with professionals in dentistry, gastroenterology, pulmonology, dermatology, and oncology. But it’s optometrists that rely on this tech most frequently.


How does an OCT machine work?

diagram of eye and retina

The OCT machine is a piece of advanced technology that relies on both 2-D and 3-D imaging. It uses light waves to capture images of the retina at different angles and cross sections. As a result, the OCT machine is able to fully map and measure the entire retina.

With this imaging technology, the OCT machine is able to not only see the full retina, but measure the various layers and determine the thickness, which is vital for the examination and making a diagnosis.


What to expect during an OCT exam

The OCT portion of your eye exam begins when your optometrist asks you to rest your head on the support of the machine. At this time and throughout the process, nothing will touch your eyes. Everything is done with light, which means the exam is 100% non-invasive and pain-free.

Once your optometrist has you in position, they may require some dilating drops to help your pupils expand, which makes it easier for the machine to examine your retinas. This is also completely painless, but you may notice a little light sensitivity for a couple hours after the exam. After the dilation process, the machine begins to take images. The whole OCT exam takes no longer than 5-10 minutes.

If you’re ready to book your exam, head over to our website and book right away at one of our two downtown Victoria locations: Book an eye exam.


What kind of issues can OCT detect?

brown eye up close

Because the OCT machine uses 2-D and 3-D imaging and a number of different angles, this technology is able to pickup on a number of eye conditions of varying seriousness.

One of the most common issues detected by OCT is glaucoma, a mostly asymptomatic condition that results in progressive vision loss, characterized by a sudden or gradual increase in pressure in the eye. This is where OCT is crucial, as glaucoma would otherwise go undetected until it’s too late.

Another common condition caught by an OCT exam is age-related macular degeneration, which causes people to lose central vision. This happens to many people as they age, but there are treatments available.

One of the reasons an OCT exam is so valuable is early detection. When it comes to our eyes, early detection is key, and could make the difference between preserving vision or losing it. The specialized technology in an OCT machine detects issues even before symptoms pop up or any vision deterioration is noticed.

Here are some of the other eye conditions detected by the OCT machine:

  • Diabetic related eye diseases
  • Macular holes
  • Macular edema
  • Macular pucker
  • Optic nerve related issues
  • Hypertensive retinopathy
  • Retinal detachments
  • Hereditary retinal eye diseases


Who is the OCT exam for?

At Inner Harbour Optometry, the OCT exam is part of a standard comprehensive eye exam if the optometrist deems it necessary, because it plays a vital part in the overall examination process and early detection. OCT may be included in your regular checkup, plus it will likely be recommended if you’re undergoing treatment for an eye condition. In the case it is included in your standard eye exam, there should be no extra charge to be examined by this machine.


Book a comprehensive eye exam today and your optometrist will use the OCT machine as part of the process. We deal directly with insurance providers, so be sure to bring your information. Kids 12 and under are completely covered by government healthcare, plus there’s partial coverage available for seniors. Contact Inner Harbour Optometry today by phone, via our online booking form, our by visiting one of our two downtown Victoria locations.