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Ophthalmoscopy

How It Is Done

Direct ophthalmoscopy

This type of exam camera.gif can be done with or without eyedrops.

  • Your eyes may be dilated and you will be seated in a darkened room and asked to stare straight ahead at some distant spot in the room.
  • Looking through the ophthalmoscope, your doctor will move very close to your face and shine a bright light into one of your eyes. Each eye is examined separately.
  • Try to hold your eyes steady without blinking.

This exam takes a few minutes.

Indirect ophthalmoscopy

This type of eye exam gives a more complete view of the retina than direct ophthalmoscopy. It is usually done by an ophthalmologist.

  • Your eyes will be dilated and you may be asked to sit upright with your head on a chin rest in a darkened room.
  • Your doctor will hold your eye open, shine a very bright light into it, and examine it through a special lens.
  • Your doctor may ask you to look in different directions and may apply pressure to your eyeball through the skin of your eyelids with a small, blunt instrument to help bring the edges of your fundus into view.

This exam takes a few minutes.

How It Feels

Direct ophthalmoscopy

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.

Indirect ophthalmoscopy

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. To learn more, see the topic Dilated Eye Exam.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 09, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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