There’s no doubt that eyes are a very complex set of organs – in order to grant us vision, they are made up of multiple parts, with the retina, optic disc and a series of blood vessels among them. As with other aspects of the human body, there are certainly things that can go wrong with our eyes, and there are quite a few ways for medical professionals to quickly determine them. Although there are basic tests, such as a vision test you might get at the optometrist, there are more involved tests designed to find more serious eye issues. One of these is ophthalmoscopy, and in this article we take a closer look at this fascinating eye procedure. 

Ophthalmoscopy basics

Ophthalmoscopy, otherwise known as a funduscopy or retinal examination, is a procedure that is performed with an ophthalmoscope device, such as a Welch Allyn ophthalmoscope. An ophthalmoscopy is typically included as part of a routine eye exam to determine the presence of eye diseases, where it will allow a medical professional to look at the back of a patient’s eye to determine if there are any issues present. When a patient suffers from a condition that affects blood vessels, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, it is much more likely that they will undergo ophthalmoscopy more regularly, with the regularity often being determined by their GP. There are a wide variety of instances where ophthalmoscopy might be necessary. Patients might have experienced damage to an eye, such as with an optic nerve or a retinal tear or detachment, or they may have conditions like glaucoma, melanoma or even hypertension. In each case, ophthalmoscopy is an ideal way to quickly establish and screen for a wide assortment of eye diseases and conditions that affect the blood vessels around the eye.

What ophthalmoscopy involves

In order to better see any issues in your eyes during ophthalmoscopy, a doctor will often use a solution to dilate the pupils of a patient. There are then three ways that a patient’s eyes may be examined – through direct examination, indirect examination and slit-lamp examination, and a procedure may entail a few of these at once depending on the requirements of the patient. A direct examination involves a patient sitting in a chair in a dark room while the doctor examines their eyes with an ophthalmoscope. The room must be dark as the ophthalmoscope has a light and several small lenses on it used to see the blood vessels. The indirect examination involves the patient lying down and the doctor shining a bright light into the eye of the patient to help the structures in the back of the eye to become more detailed. Finally, the slit-lamp examination is very similar to the indirect examination but involves stronger magnification.

The risks of ophthalmoscopy

As with any other health procedure, there are risks involved with ophthalmoscopy, but these are usually uncommon and minor. An ophthalmoscopy can be uncomfortable for some people, whether due to the awkward head fixing or the intense light shone directly into the eyes, but the only other real complications can potentially occur due to the eyedrops used. A patient might react with symptoms like dry mouth, nausea, flushing and dizziness after having eyedrops applied, but these are relatively uncommon.

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