Health Watch: Virtual Vision

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A new, more precise picture of your eye is now available for the first time in Southern Colorado. It's designed to spot problems before they rob you of your vision.

Most people get their eyes dilated so a specialist can look at the retina. That process can be inconvenient. It can take hours for the drops to wear off, making bright lights tough to take. And in rare cases, it can make a patient dizzy or nauseous.

That's where the $60,000 Opti-Map machine comes in. No drops, no dilation, and a wider view of what's behind your eye.

The procedure is called a "digital retinal" picture. For the patient, it's simply a bright green light that will scan across your cornea. It will not hurt at all.

Adrian Schipfer's eye doctor used the Opti-Map on her. "I can see now. My eyes aren't feeling funny and swollen like after they're dilated."

Opti-Map isn't just about convenience. It's a digital picture of the retina and everything that goes with it. The pictures are stored in the computer, to be pulled up and compared each time the procedure is done to spot or prevent any eye problems. If the optometrist sees a very white center spot on the image, it could indicate glaucoma.

It is imperative for people with certain conditions to have this retinal mapping, as opposed to dilation. That's because eye doctors are able to see exactly what is wrong by comparing side-by-side images---taken over time---and make changes in treatment if needed.

With currently used procedures, an optometrist uses a lens with a magnification of up to 5-times. The doctor looks into it with a 30-degree field of view to draw what is wrong with the eye and make notations. The Opti-map gives you a 200-degree view and more clarity.

For Adrian, it's more piece of mind. For her doctor, it's more information to help keep her eyes healthy year to year.

The Opti-Map is not covered by insurance. It costs $23 each time---both eyes included. And the procedure is not a replacement for the current methods of checking your retina--- certain conditions still require dilation.