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What Is A Fluorescein Angiography Eye Exam And How Do You Know If You Need One?

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Fluorescein angiography is a type of eye exam that's used to look for problems with the veins at the back of your eye. By using a dye to make the veins stand out and taking pictures of the veins while the dye is circulating through them, an eye doctor is able to see how well the veins in your eye are functioning. Fluorescein angiography can detect eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy very early, which makes them an important procedure for preserving your vision if you have diabetes. To learn more about fluorescein angiography and how to determine if you need the procedure, read on.

What Is Fluorescein Angiography?

At the start of the procedure, your eye doctor will dilate your eyes by placing eye drops in them. This allows them to see far into your eye in order to examine the blood vessels there. Afterward, they'll shine a light into your eye and take high-resolution photographs of the back of your eye using a camera.

Once the first pictures are taken, your eye doctor will inject fluorescein dye into a vein in your arm. The dye will circulate throughout your bloodstream, where it will eventually reach the blood vessels in your eye. Your eye doctor will shine a blue light into your eye that's absorbed by the fluorescein dye, which causes it to become very bright. The bright dye will illuminate the blood vessels in the back of your eye, and your eye doctor will continue taking pictures as it spreads throughout those blood vessels.

Taking high-resolution photographs of the back of your eye as the fluorescein dye moves through them allows your eye doctor to determine how well the blood vessels in your eye are functioning. The blood vessels are easy to see when they're illuminated by the blue light on the camera. Your eye doctor will be able to see if blood is circulating slowly throughout your eye, if one of your veins is blocked or if your blood vessels are leaking.

When Should You Consider Undergoing Fluorescein Angiography?

Regular appointments for fluorescein angiography are important if you have diabetes. Diabetes affects your blood circulation, and it can lead to diabetic retinopathy. Fluorescein angiography can detect diabetic retinopathy very early, since the circulation in the blood vessels in your eye will be slow and some of them will leak their contents through tiny tears in the blood vessel walls.

You should also undergo fluorescein angiography if your vision suddenly becomes worse with no apparent cause. This can be caused by a blood clot migrating into your central retinal vein, which will cut off the blood supply to a part of your retina. Fluorescein angiography will show your eye doctor the blood clot and the obstructed vein.

How Do You Prepare for a Fluorescein Angiography Appointment?

Since your eyes will be dilated at the start of your appointment, you'll need to have a friend drive you home afterward. You won't be able to see well enough to drive when your eyes are dilated since it will cause objects at far distances to appear blurry. You should also bring sunglasses to wear after your appointment since dilating your pupils can make you sensitive to bright lights.

You should expect the fluorescein dye to slightly tint your vision yellow after the procedure. Your kidneys will slowly filter the fluorescein dye out of your bloodstream, which will discolor your urine. Once the dye has been filtered from your bloodstream, the color of your vision will return to normal.

Fluorescein angiography is a safe, quick procedure that can detect eye problems like diabetic retinopathy and obstructed veins very early, allowing treatment to start as soon as possible, and starting treatment early helps preserve your vision by stopping poor circulation from causing damage to your eyes.

For more information on eye exams, contact a professional near you.