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Ophthalmoscopy

Funduscopy; Funduscopic exam

Ophthalmoscopy is an examination of the back part of the eye (fundus), which includes the retina, optic disc, choroid, and blood vessels.

How the Test is Performed

There are different types of ophthalmoscopy.

  • Direct ophthalmoscopy. You will be seated in a darkened room. The health care provider performs this exam by shining a beam of light through the pupil using an instrument called an ophthalmoscope. An ophthalmoscope is about the size of a flashlight. It has a light and different tiny lenses that allow the provider to view the back of the eyeball.
  • Indirect ophthalmoscopy. You will either lie or sit in a semi-reclined position. The provider holds your eye open while shining a very bright light into the eye using an instrument worn on the head. (The instrument looks like a miner's light.) The provider views the back of the eye through a lens held close to your eye. Some pressure may be applied to the eye using a small, blunt probe. You will be asked to look in various directions. This exam is usually used to look for detached retina.
  • Slit-lamp ophthalmoscopy. You will sit in a chair with the instrument placed in front of you. You will be asked to rest your chin and forehead on a support to keep your head steady. The provider will use the microscope part of the slit lamp and a tiny lens placed close to the front of the eye. The provider can see about the same with this technique as with indirect ophthalmoscopy, but with higher magnification.

The ophthalmoscopy examination takes about 5 to 10 minutes.

How to Prepare for the Test

Indirect ophthalmoscopy and slit-lamp ophthalmoscopy are often performed after eyedrops are placed to widen (dilate) the pupils. Direct ophthalmoscopy and slit-lamp ophthalmoscopy can be performed with or without the pupil dilated.

You should tell your provider if you:

  • Are allergic to any medicines
  • Are taking any medicines
  • Have glaucoma or a family history of glaucoma

How the Test will Feel

The bright light will be uncomfortable, but the test is not painful.

You may briefly see images after the light shines in your eyes. The light is brighter with indirect ophthalmoscopy, so the sensation of seeing after-images may be greater.

Pressure on the eye during indirect ophthalmoscopy may be slightly uncomfortable, but it should not be painful.

If eyedrops are used, they may sting briefly when placed in the eyes. You may also have an unusual taste in your mouth.

Why the Test is Performed

Ophthalmoscopy is done as part of a routine physical or complete eye examination.

It is used to detect and evaluate symptoms of retinal detachment or eye diseases such as glaucoma.

Ophthalmoscopy may also be done if you have signs or symptoms of high blood pressure, diabetes, or other diseases that affect the blood vessels.

Normal Results

The retina, blood vessels, and the optic disc appear normal.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results may be seen on ophthalmoscopy with any of the following conditions:

Ophthalmoscopy is considered to be 90% to 95% accurate. It can detect the early stages and effects of many serious diseases. For conditions that cannot be detected by ophthalmoscopy, there are other techniques and devices that may be helpful.

Risks

If you receive drops to dilate your eyes for the ophthalmoscopy, your vision will be blurred.

  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from sunlight, which can damage your eyes.
  • Have someone drive you home.
  • The drops usually wear off in several hours.

The test itself involves no risk. In rare cases, the dilating eyedrops cause:

  • An attack of narrow-angle glaucoma
  • Dizziness
  • Dryness of the mouth
  • Flushing
  • Nausea and vomiting

If narrow-angle glaucoma is suspected, dilating drops are usually not used.

References

Atebara NH, Miller D, Thall EH. Ophthalmic instruments. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 2.5.

Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW. Eyes. In: Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW, eds. Seidel's Guide to Physical Examination. 8th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby; 2015:chap 11.

Feder RS, Olsen TW, Prum BE Jr, et al. Comprehensive adult medical eye evaluation preferred practice pattern guidelines. Ophthalmology. 2016;123(1):209-236. PMID: 26581558 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26581558.

  • Eye

    Eye - illustration

    The eye is the organ of sight, a nearly spherical hollow globe filled with fluids (humors). The outer layer or tunic (sclera, or white, and cornea) is fibrous and protective. The middle layer (choroid, ciliary body and the iris) is vascular. The innermost layer (the retina) is nervous or sensory. The fluids in the eye are divided by the lens into the vitreous humor (behind the lens) and the aqueous humor (in front of the lens). The lens itself is flexible and suspended by ligaments which allow it to change shape to focus light on the retina, which is composed of sensory neurons.

    Eye

    illustration

  • Lateral eye anatomy

    Lateral eye anatomy - illustration

    The cornea is the clear watch glass covering in the front of the eye. The cornea works with the lens of the eye to focus images on the retina. The retina is the internal layer of the eye that receives and transmits focused images. The retina is normally red due to its rich blood supply.

    Lateral eye anatomy

    illustration

    • Eye

      Eye - illustration

      The eye is the organ of sight, a nearly spherical hollow globe filled with fluids (humors). The outer layer or tunic (sclera, or white, and cornea) is fibrous and protective. The middle layer (choroid, ciliary body and the iris) is vascular. The innermost layer (the retina) is nervous or sensory. The fluids in the eye are divided by the lens into the vitreous humor (behind the lens) and the aqueous humor (in front of the lens). The lens itself is flexible and suspended by ligaments which allow it to change shape to focus light on the retina, which is composed of sensory neurons.

      Eye

      illustration

    • Lateral eye anatomy

      Lateral eye anatomy - illustration

      The cornea is the clear watch glass covering in the front of the eye. The cornea works with the lens of the eye to focus images on the retina. The retina is the internal layer of the eye that receives and transmits focused images. The retina is normally red due to its rich blood supply.

      Lateral eye anatomy

      illustration

    Tests for Ophthalmoscopy

     
     

    Review Date: 2/28/2019

    Reviewed By: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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