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 common 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 several different tiny lenses that allow the examiner to view the back of the eyeball.
- Indirect ophthalmoscopy: You will either lie or sit in a semi-reclined position. The health care 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 health care provider views the back of the eye through a hand-held lens held close to your eye. Some pressure may be applied to the eyeball using a small, blunt probe. You will be asked to look in various directions.
- 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 health care provider will use the microscope part of the slit lamp and a tiny lens placed close to the front of the eye. The health care provider can see about the same with this technique as with indirect ophthalmoscopy, but with higher magnification.
The opthalmoscopy examination usually takes about 5 to 10 minutes.
How to prepare for the test
Indirect ophthalmoscopy and slit-lamp ophthalmoscopy are 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.
The eyedrops may make it hard for you to focus your eyes for several hours. You should arrange to have someone drive you after the examination. Wearing sunglasses or tinted lenses will help make your dilated pupils more comfortable.
You should tell the health care 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 by 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.
The retina, blood vessels, and the optic disc should appear normal.
What abnormal results mean
Abnormal results may be seen on ophthalmoscopy with any of the following conditions:
What the risks are
The test itself involves no risk. The dilating eye drops may rarely cause:
- An attack of narrow-angle glaucoma
- Dryness of the mouth
If glaucoma is suspected, drops usually are not used.
Ophthalmoscopy is considered to be 90-95% accurate. It can detect the early stages and effects of many serious diseases.
American Academy of Ophthalmology Preferred Practice Patterns Committee. Preferred Practice Pattern Guidelines. Comprehensive Adult Medical Eye Evaluation. Available at http://one.aao.org/CE/PracticeGuidelines/PPP_Content.aspx?cid=64e9df91-dd10-4317-8142-6a87eee7f517. Accessed February 26, 2013.
Colenbrander A. Principles of ophthalmoscopy. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane's Ophthalmology. 2013 ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2012:vol 1, chap 63.
Miller D, Thall EH, Atebara NH. Ophthalmic instrumentation. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 2.10.
Volk D. Aspheric lenses. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane's Ophthalmology. 2013 ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2012:vol 1, chap 50.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. ©1997-2014 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Sign Up for Free Newsletters
Ask Your Doctor the RIGHT Questions!
the most from your doctor visit.
Emailed right to you!
The Ask Your Doctor email series
may contain sponsored content.
18+, US residents only please.
Explore Original Articles About...
Get the MOST from QualityHealth
- Top Searches
- 1. Arthritis Management: Nature Heals
- 2. 5 Digestive To-Dos
- 3. Men: Should You Shave It or Leave It?
- 4. Today's Top Fitness Trends
- 5. Sugar and Osteoarthritis : The Link
- 6. Can't Afford Your Hospital Bills?
- 7. Stay Energized All Day Long
- 8. Phobias: Who Has Them and Why?
- 9. What If Your EpiPen Fails?
- 10. 5 Costly Medical Billing Mistakes
- 1. Hotter Temperatures Linked To Kidney Stones
- 2. Summer Bug Bites: What to Look For
- 3. Skin Health Advice with Dr. Kenneth Beer
- 4. Summer Safety Tips That Every Parent Needs To Know
- 5. Sugar and Your Immunity System
- 6. Do Weight Loss Supplements Work?
- 7. 5 Super Foods for Spring
- 8. The Hazards of Reusable Bags
- 9. How to Avoid Ingrown Hairs
- 10. Health Tip: Constantly Change Shoes
- 1. 4 Common Treatments for Epilepsy
- 2. What Does a Urogynecologist Do?
- 3. GERD Without Heartburn? It's Possible
- 4. Graston Technique: Can It Work on You?
- 5. Music Therapy Can Help Autism
- 6. 8 Ways to Fight MS-Related Fatigue
- 7. Can You Still Bleed After Menopause?
- 8. Be Your Own Health Care Advocate
- 9. Why Is Syphillis on the Rise?
- 10. Ideal Weight vs. Happy Weight
The material on the QualityHealth Web site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a physician or other qualified health provider. See additional information.