Skip to Content
Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Retinal Imaging
Retinal imaging uses special cameras and scanners to make magnified images, or pictures, of the back of your eye. This includes the retina. It's the part of the eye that's most responsible for your vision.
Common imaging methods include:
A test called fundus autofluorescence is sometimes used. Special lighting lets the doctor see microscopic changes in your eye that are caused by certain conditions.
These tests help doctors find and treat eye problems. Doctors can see if a disease is getting worse or if treatment is working.
You may need retinal imaging if:
Eye exams, including retinal imaging, may help your doctor find a problem before it has a chance to get worse. And this gives you a better chance of protecting your vision.
Retinal imaging should not take the place of a complete eye exam.
If you know that the doctor will use drops to widen, or dilate, your pupils, think about having someone else drive you home. The drops make your eyes very sensitive to light. You may not be able to see well for a few hours. If you have sunglasses, take them with you to wear on the way home.
If you wear contact lenses, you may want to take your eyeglasses with you.
Tell your doctor if:
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 the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
Retinal imaging tests are done in a hospital
or doctor's office by an
ophthalmologist or optometrist.
For some tests, the
doctor will first use eyedrops to widen, or dilate, your pupils. You'll sit and wait for about half an hour for the drops to take effect.
For most tests, you'll sit in a
chair facing the camera. You'll place your chin on a chin rest. And you'll brace your
forehead against a bar to keep it still.
Keep your mouth closed, open
your eyes as wide as you can, and stare straight ahead. You can breathe and
blink normally while the camera photographs or scans your eyes.
It only takes a few minutes to take the pictures.
Before an angiogram, a dye is injected into your vein.
Eyes closed: You sit in a chair with your eyes closed. The doctor puts ultrasound gel on your eyelid. Then he or she gently moves a small ultrasound wand against your eyelid.
Eyes open: Eyedrops are used to numb your eyes. The doctor moves the ultrasound wand against the front surface of your eye.
The tests themselves don't cause pain or discomfort. For some tests, very bright light may shine in your eye.
If your eyes have been dilated, they will be very sensitive to light for several hours. Your vision may be a little blurry.
The dye used in an angiogram may cause a metallic taste in your mouth. You may also have mild nausea and a brief feeling of warmth. Your urine may be orange for a day or two.
In some people, the dilating eyedrops can cause an allergic reaction.
The dye used in an angiogram may upset your stomach. You may feel flushed. These symptoms pass quickly. If you're pregnant, talk to your doctor about possible risks to your baby.
Some people are allergic to the dye. Tell your doctor if you feel lightheaded, need to vomit, or feel itchy after the dye is injected. Very rarely, a person may have a serious allergic
reaction (anaphylaxis) and need emergency care.
The pictures from retinal imaging tests help your doctor look for problems and decide on treatment.
The retina looks healthy.
You may not be able to
have the test, or the results may not be helpful, if:
The dyes used in angiograms can be passed on through breast milk. This means that moms will need to stop breast-feeding for a day or two after the test. Use a
breast pump to empty your breasts and get rid of the milk until it's safe to
start breast-feeding again.
Other Works Consulted
Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2013). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 6th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.
Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009).
Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed.
Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Prall FR, et al. (2009). Fluorescein angiography, indocyanine green angiography, and optical coherence tomography. In M Yanoff, JS Duker, eds., Ophthalmology, 3rd ed., pp. 536–544. Edinburgh: Mosby.
Current as of:
October 24, 2013
Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine & Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
To learn more, visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Send Us Your Feedback
North Kansas City Hospital.