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Ophthalmoscopy (also called fundoscopy) 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
There are two types of ophthalmoscopy.
Ophthalmoscopy is done to:
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
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
This type of exam can be
done with or without eyedrops.
This exam takes a few 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
This exam takes a few minutes.
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.
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.
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
Reasons you may not be able to
have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
Other Works ConsultedChang DF (2011). Ophthalmologic examinations. In P Riordan-Eva, ET Cunningham, eds., Vaughan and Asbury's General Ophthalmology, 18th ed., pp. 27–57. New York: McGraw-Hill.
January 9, 2013
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
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