The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the inner eye. It acts like the film in a camera -- images come through the eye's lens and are focused on the retina. The retina then converts these images to electric signals and sends them via the optic nerve to the brain.
The retina is normally red due to its rich blood supply. An ophthalmoscope allows a health care provider to see through your pupil and lens to the retina. If the provider sees any changes in the color or appearance of the retina, it may indicate a disease.
Anyone who experiences changes in sharpness or color perception, flashes of lights, floaters, or distortion in vision should get a retinal examination.
Fay A. Diseases of the visual system. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 449.
Schubert HD. Structure and function of the neural retina. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 6.1.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.