A retinal exam, also referred to as ophthalmoscopy or fundoscopy, examines the back of your eye, including your retina, optic disc, and blood vessels. Your provider usually uses special eye drops to dilate your pupils, opening them to make the back part of your eye visible. The eye drops may sting briefly and might cause a medicinal taste in your mouth.
There are several techniques used by providers to view the back of your eye, including direct examination, indirect examination, and slit lamp examination.
During direct examination, your provider will shine a beam of light through your pupil and use an ophthalmoscope to see the back of your eye. In some cases, dilating eye drops will not be necessary. It’s not unusual to see afterimages when your provider stops shining the light in your eyes. Don’t be alarmed. This is normal and will not last long.
During an indirect examination, you may be asked to lie down or recline in a chair. Your provider will hold your eye open and examine each eye with a very bright light mounted on his or her forehead. This exam allows your provider to see your eye in great detail and in three dimensions. It’s even more likely that you will see afterimages when your provider completes the indirect examination. Don’t be alarmed. This is normal and will soon go away.
When conducting a slit lamp exam, your provider will use the slit lamp along with special lenses to look at the back of your eye.
The retinal exam usually takes five to 10 minutes. However, if you are given dilating drops, they will generally take 15 to 20 minutes to work, and the effects will last for several hours. Your vision will be blurry, and you’ll have trouble focusing your eyes. Make sure you have transportation home, since you won’t be able to drive. Depending on your job, you might not be able to return to work immediately after your exam.