By Goh Jiah Ying, IECRC

The retina is a thin layer of light-sensitive tissue that lines the inside back portion of our eyes. It is responsible for converting light focused by the lens in our eye into neural signals and send them to our brain to help us see. As such, any damage to our retina can potentially lead to permanent visual impairment and even blindness in severe cases. Examples of common sight-threatening retinal conditions include diabetic retinopathy, aged-related macular degeneration, macular pucker and retinal detachment.

As part of a comprehensive eye examination, eye care professionals such as optometrists and ophthalmologists will perform an examination of the retina. The retina can be examined in a variety of ways. Some common ways include using a hand-held lens with a slit lamp or with a head-mounted binocular indirect ophthalmoscope.

Ophthalmologists often use dilating eye drops to increase the size of the pupil to widen the field of view during retinal examination (called a dilated eye examination or dilated fundus examination). In addition, using a technique called scleral indentation, ophthalmologists can see the peripheral retina up to the front limit of the retina (called ora serrata). Common conditions that affect the peripheral retina include lattice degeneration and retinal tear.

Students are taught retinal examination techniques during their Diploma in Optometry course in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. At the invitation of Ngee Ann Polytechnic Lecturer Ms Jessie Tan Sze Hui, Dr Au Eong Kah Guan, Medical Director and Senior Consultant in Singapore International Eye Cataract Retina Centre, gave a demonstration of the two commonly used retinal examination techniques to second year optometry students on 27 July 2017. Some of the students had one of their eyes dilated and were examined by Dr Au Eong and fellow students. Besides watching Dr Au Eong demonstrate the finer points of retinal examination, the students had hands-on practice on each other.