What Is a Digital Retinal Image?

Published August 23, 2020

Digital retinal imaging (DRI) is a quick and painless way for your eye doctor to look inside your eye and track changes to your ocular health and vision.

Digital retinal imaging, also known as a retinal photograph, is a non-invasive, diagnostic tool that produces digital high resolution, colored images of your retina, optic nerve, and blood vessels in the back of your eye.

Digital retinal imaging has become a vitally important test, used for early detection of ocular diseases. 

The images are stored electronically to allow your doctor to detect and measure any changes to your retina at each eye exam.

Retinal imaging is not a substitute for a regular eye exam, but enables a wider, and more precise view of your retina for early detection of ocular disease.

Which conditions can a DRI test detect?

Retinal imaging facilitates early identification of the follow ocular diseases:

Do I need a DRI test?

The DRI is now commonly performed as part of your regular eye exam. However, if you notice any changes to your vision, or vision loss, your eye doctor may wish to use a DRI test to rule out any ocular conditions that may be damaging your retina.

Additionally, if you have been diagnosed with any of the following conditions, your eye doctor may recommend a DRI test:

  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Hypertension
  • Macular degeneration
  • Glaucoma
  • Retinal toxicity

Since the retinal blood vessels are the only blood vessels in the body that can be seen by a doctor, the DRI test is also being used to detect general health conditions.

What should I expect during a retinal imaging test?

Prior to beginning the test, your eye doctor may dilate your pupils with special eye drops. Your eye doctor will then ask you to place your chin and forehead on supportive rests to help you keep your head still.

Next, you will open your eyes as wide as possible and stare at an object straight ahead. A bright flash will be seen when the photograph is taken, capturing high definition images of your retina and optic nerve.

The images are displayed on a computer screen for your eye doctor to review with you.

What should I expect after the test?

In most cases, the DRI test is performed without any eye drops, but it’s always recommended to rest for a few minutes following the test, to allow the effects of the flash to wear off.

If your eye doctor recommends a DRI test, you can rest assured that this is a relatively quick and painless test.

However, never hesitate to speak with your eye doctor if you have any concerns about the test, or your ocular health.