The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eyeball. Images that come through the eye's lens are focused on the retina. The retina then converts these images to electric signals and sends them along the optic nerve to the brain.
The retina most often looks red or orange because there are many blood vessels right behind it. An ophthalmoscope allows a health care provider to see through your pupil and lens to the retina. Sometimes photos or special scans of the retina can show things that the provider cannot see just by looking at the retina through the ophthalmoscope. If other eye problems block the provider's view of the retina, ultrasound can be used.
Anyone who experiences these vision problems should get a retinal examination:
- Changes in sharpness of vision
- Loss of color perception
- Flashes of light or floaters
- Distorted vision (straight lines look wavy)
Cioffi GA, Liebmann JM. Diseases of the visual system. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 395.
Schubert HD. Structure of the neural retina. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 6.1.
Reh TA. The development of the retina. In: Schachat AP, Sadda SVR, Hinton DR, Wilkinson CP, Wiedemann P, eds. Ryan's Retina. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 15.
Review Date 5/3/2021
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.