Ophthalmoscopy (also called fundoscopy) is a test that lets a doctor see inside the back of the eye, which is called the fundus. The doctor can also see other structures in the eye. He or she uses a magnifying tool called an ophthalmoscope and a light source to see inside the eye. The test is done as part of an eye exam. It may also be done as part of a routine physical exam.

The fundus has a lining of nerve cells called the retina. The retina detects images seen by the clear, outer covering of the eye, called the cornea. The fundus also contains blood vessels and the optic nerve.

There are two types of ophthalmoscopy.

  • Direct ophthalmoscopy. Your doctor uses a tool that is about the size of a small flashlight. It has many lenses that can magnify up to about 15 times.
  • Indirect ophthalmoscopy. Your doctor uses a small handheld lens and either a slit lamp microscope or a light attached to a headband. This test gives the doctor a wider view of the inside of the eye. It allows a better view of the fundus, even if the lens is clouded by cataracts.

Why It Is Done

Ophthalmoscopy is done to:

  • Find problems or diseases of the eye, such as retina problems.
  • Help find other conditions or diseases that damage the eye.
  • Look for the cause of symptoms, such as headaches.
  • Find other problems or diseases, such as head injuries or brain tumors.

How It Is Done

Direct ophthalmoscopy

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

  • Your eyes may be dilated. You will be seated in a darkened room and will be 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 checked 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. The exam is usually done by an ophthalmologist.

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