Do I need a retina scan? - Scott E. Pautler, M.D. Tampa

22 Mar.,2024


With all of the technological advances in eye care, there are many ways to visualize the eye and a retina scan is often offered during an eye examination. A retina scan is another name for a photograph of the retina. Is it really needed? Is it worth the money? The answers to these important questions depend on the circumstances of the eye exam.

Is a retina scan really needed?

For routine eye exams in which the patient has no symptoms of a retinal condition, a retina scan may not be necessary. Important symptoms of retinal problems include: straight lines looking crooked, a blind spot or missing area in the vision, a loss of peripheral vision. If these symptoms are present, a retina scan or a referral to a retinal specialist may be in order.

What types of retina scans are available?

The following are scans that may be ordered by the eye doctor:

  1. Color Fundus Photography: an image of the retina as seen by the examining eye care specialist.  It may be helpful to monitor and compare lesions from visit to visit.
  2. Fundus Autofluorescence Photography: an image of the fluorescence of the retinal layers taken with a short-wave light.  Helpful in diagnosis of many degenerative conditions such as age-related macular degeneration.
  3. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT): a cross-sectional image of the retina (or other part of the eye).  This test is helpful to diagnose fluid leakage in or under the retina and to assess macular hole.  
  4. Fluorescein Angiography: a specialized image of the retina taken after an organic dye is injected into the vein of your arm.  It shows blood flow and sites of abnormal leakage.
  5. Indocyanine Green Angiography: similar to fluorescein angiography, but with a different dye that is used to see deeper into the eye to examine the choroid.  Useful in macular degeneration and posterior uveitis.

Is a retina scan worth the money?

An examination of the retina is included in a complete eye exam without further charge. A retina scan is sometimes used as an additional step (with additional charges) if the examining doctor is not comfortable with his/her ability to diagnose a retinal condition. The cost of a retina scan may be avoided in some cases by choosing an eye doctor who is comfortable examining the dilated eye for retinal problems without the use of a scan.

By Scott E. Pautler, MD

For a telemedicine consultation with Dr Pautler, please send email request to We accept Medicare and most insurances in Florida. Please include contact information (including phone number) in the email. We are unable to provide consultation for those living outside the state of Florida.

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