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Harvard Health Publications

Fluorescein Angiography (Test for Diabetic Retinopathy)

What is the test?

By looking into the back of your eye (the retina), eye doctors can see changes in the blood vessels there that show whether you are at risk for losing vision from diabetes or other causes. The earliest changes can be seen only with a special test called fluorescein angiography. For this test, a chemical that temporarily makes the blood vessels fluorescent and shows very tiny leaks in them is injected into one of your arm or hand veins while you are having your eyes examined.

How do I prepare for the test?

You should arrange to have someone else drive you home from the eye doctor, because your eyes will be dilated; this can make your eyes sensitive to the sun and your vision blurry for a while.

What happens when the test is performed?

You have drops put into your eye to make the pupil dilate (open), and you have to wait for about half an hour while the drops take effect. Before giving you any other medicine, your doctor might first examine your eyes for signs of bleeding or debris outside of your retina arteries; these are signs of more advanced eye disease from diabetes. Then a nurse inserts a small needle into one of the veins in your arm or hand so that you can have a dose of medicine injected. Your doctor uses a special eye camera to take pictures of your retina. You look into one side of the camera while your doctor looks through the other side. The camera shines a dim blue light into your eye, which causes the dye flowing through the retina arteries to show up as fluorescent green. The doctor takes a collection of pictures of your eyes to review more closely later.

What risks are there from the test?

There are no special risks from this test, although your vision may be blurry for an hour or more after the test because your pupils are dilated. The dye fluorescein is excreted from your body in your urine, which might give your urine a bright or discolored appearance for a day.

Must I do anything special after the test is over?

You will need to wear sunglasses for a few hours until your pupils are no longer dilated.

How long is it before the result of the test is known?

Your doctor can often discuss the results of the test with you at the end of your visit. He or she might recommend treatment (such as eye laser treatments) if your test reveals retina disease.


Disclaimer: This content should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of a call or visit to a health professional. Use of this content is subject to specific Terms of Use & Medical Disclaimers.

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