Ophthalmoscopy is a test that allows a doctor to see inside the back of the eye (called the fundus) and other structures using a magnifying instrument (ophthalmoscope) and a light source. It is done as part of an eye exam and may be done as part of a routine physical exam.
The fundus contains a lining of nerve cells (the retina), which detects images seen by the clear, outer covering of the eye (cornea). The fundus also contains blood vessels and the optic nerve. See a picture of the structures of the eye.
There are two types of ophthalmoscopy.
Why It Is Done
Ophthalmoscopy is done to:
How To Prepare
No special preparation is needed before having this test.
Your doctor may use eyedrops to widen (dilate) your pupils. This makes it easier to see the back of the eye. The eyedrops take about 15 to 20 minutes to dilate the pupil fully. Your doctor may also use eyedrops to numb the surface of your eyes. Tell your doctor if:
You may have trouble focusing your eyes for several hours after the test. You may wish to arrange to have someone drive you home after the test. You also will need to wear sunglasses when you go outside or into a brightly lit room.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results may mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
How It Is Done
This type of exam can be done with or without eyedrops.
This exam takes 3 to 5 minutes. See a picture of a direct ophthalmoscopic exam.
This type of eye exam gives a more complete view of the retina than direct ophthalmoscopy. It is usually done by an ophthalmologist.
This exam takes between 5 and 10 minutes. See a picture of an indirect ophthalmoscopic exam.
How It Feels
During direct ophthalmoscopy, you may hear a clicking sound as the instrument is adjusted to focus on different structures in the eye. The light is sometimes very intense, and you may see spots for a short time following the exam. Some people report seeing light spots or branching images. These are actually the outlines of the blood vessels of the retina.
With indirect ophthalmoscopy, the light is much more intense and may be somewhat uncomfortable. Pressure applied to your eyeball with the blunt instrument also may be uncomfortable. After-images are common with this test. If the test is painful, let the doctor know.
When dilating eyedrops are used
Dilating drops may make your eyes sting and cause a medicine taste in your mouth. You will have trouble focusing your eyes for up to 12 hours after your eyes have been dilated. Your distance vision usually is not affected as much as your near vision, though your eyes may be very sensitive to light. Do not drive for several hours after your eyes have been dilated. Wearing sunglasses may make you more comfortable until the effect of the drops wears off. See the topic Dilated Eye Exam.
In some people, the dilating or anesthetic eyedrops can cause:
Call your doctor immediately if you have severe and sudden eye pain, vision problems (halos may appear around light), or loss of vision after the exam.
Ophthalmoscopy is a test that allows a doctor to see inside the back of the eye (called the fundus) and other structures using a magnifying instrument (ophthalmoscope) and a light source.
What Affects the Test
Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
What To Think About
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
To learn more visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2012 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Find out what women really need.
Pill Identifier on RxList
- quick, easy,
Find a Local Pharmacy
- including 24 hour, pharmacies