Tests for evaluation of retinal diseases

Apart from the routine tests that most ophthalmologists and retinal specialists perform, like visual acuity testing, intraocular pressure check and slit lamp examination, here is a list of tests that an expert may advise for a detailed retinal evaluation.

Amsler Grid test

This test (also commonly referred to as Amsler Chart or Test) is done to check the function of the macula, which is the main part of the retina. You can do a self-test at home as well. Click here to check yourself on a Amsler Grid. You can also print out the grid and test yourself.

To test, keep the Amsler grid at a comfortable reading distance.

  • Cover one eye (wear glasses as required).
  • Focus on the dot in the center.
    • Check for lines that appear wavy, blurred or distorted. (Normally, all lines appear straight, all lines cross each other at right angles and all squares are of the same size.)
    • Check for any missing (light) or dark areas in the grid.
    • Do you see all the corners of the grid?
  • Repeat the test as above on the other eye.

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Indirect Ophthalmoscopy

The ophthalmologist may evaluate your retina by dilating your eyes (after confirming that it is necessary and safe to do so) using an indirect ophthalmoscope or various types of specialized contact lenses.

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Colour Vision Testing

This can help determine the status of your cone cells, the specialized retinal cells that help you identify colour.

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Visual Field Test

This test lets the ophthalmologist know whether your peripheral vision is normal or restricted.

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Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)

This is a specialized test that gives the ophthalmologist knowledge of the main part of your retinal structure, the macula (and maybe even the functioning). It allows the macula to be studied at the microscopic level.

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Fundus Fluorescein Angiogram (FFA)

This is a specific test generally indicated for retinal evaluation to understand the blood flow patterns in or around the retina; e.g. diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, etc. In this test, a fluorescein dye is injected into your body via a blood vessel in the arm, and photographs are taken of your eye at regular intervals while the dye courses through your arteries and veins.

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Indo-Cyanine Green Angiography (ICG)

This test is similar to FA (above), though it utilizes a different process and gives information about the deeper layers of the retina. It is not a very commonly used diagnostic test in most eye clinics, but may be advised in cases like macular degeneration and inflammation of the layers in the back of the eye.

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Ultrasound

When the ophthalmologist cannot see the back of your eye, due to causes such as a fully mature cataract or blood in front of the retina, or needs a clearer picture of the back of your eye and its specific characteristics, you may be advised to take an ultrasound test.

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Electroretinogram (ERG)

This test is a type of electrophysiological test that records the electrical currents produced when light falls on the retina. The intensity and speed of the electrical signal reduce as the various types of retinal cells degenerate.

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Multifocal ERG

The above ERG test gives a generalized result from the retina, so you may have to take a multifocal ERG for information about a specific region on the retina.

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Electroculogram (EOG)

EOG tests the electrical difference between the front and the back of the eye. The result from this test helps the ophthalmologist to understand the activity of the layer behind the retina, called retinal pigment epithelium.

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Visual Evoked Response (VER) or Visual Evoked Potential (VEP)

This test records the electrical response of the brain to sudden visual stimulus.

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Contrast sensitivity

This test measures the ability of the eye to see large, low contrast objects. It helps to gain a better understanding of the impact of visual impairment on functional ability.

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Dark Adaptation Test

This specialized test measures how well your eyes adjust to changes in lighting and can help the doctor better understand the current function of your rod cells, which are the retinal cells responsible for night vision.

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