What is a Fluorescein Angiogram?

Fluorescein Angiogram is a diagnostic test used by retina specialists.A fluorescein angiogram is a diagnostic test used to evaluate the health and blood flow of the retina.  It can be a diagnostic tool and is used primarily by retinal specialists.

Inject Dye into the Arm

A small amount (3-5 cc) of fluorescein dye is injected into your arm.  The dye will travel to  your retina in about 12-15 seconds (depending upon your heart).  A series of pictures are then taken as the dye travels through the retina.

Usually there are no side effects.  Itching and nausea can occur, but passes quickly.  As with peanuts or bee stings, severe allergy to the dye can occur.

The test may last for as long as 15 minutes depending on what we are studying.

The dye is cleared by the kidneys…your skin will have a yellowish tint and your urine will be colored for the next day!

Fluorescein is unique to ophthalmology, it is not related to other contrast dyes used in other fields such as urology, cardiology or radiology.

Macular Degeneration

The test is great for evaluating macular degeneration.  The retina is a laminated tissue (it has 3 layers)  and abnormalities of all 3 layers can be detected.  Macular degeneration is a disease of the middle layer of the retina called the retinal pigment epithelium (the RPE).

It’s a perfect way to diagnose cases of wet macular degeneration and to monitor patients receiving anti-VEGF treatments.

I use this test to differentiate patients with “normal” drusen from patients with drusen who have macular degeneration.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy has characteristic changes of the normal vessels causing macular edema.  Abnormal vessels can grow in various parts of the eye in patients with proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

The different manifestations of diabetic retinopathy can all be diagnosed with a fluorescein angiogram.

 Other Eye Diseases

There are many other diseases, principally of the retina, where a fluorescein angiogram is helpful including; central serous retinopathy, macular edema, macular dystrophy (e.g. Stargardt’s disease), retinitis pigmentosa to name a few.

What Does This Mean?

Performing an angiogram is a team effort.  While it is my practice to personally inject the dye into your arm, many other practices have taught their staff to perform the actual injections.

The most important person in this process is the photographer.  There is a true art to taking ophthalmic pictures and, in fact, there is a certification available.

In most offices, only a few people have enough experience to run the camera and larger practices may even have a dedicated ophthalmic photographer!

Ophthalmic photography is a little known, but truly valuable, profession.



Randall V. Wong, M.D.

Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist
Fairfax, Virginia

***This post is for information purposes only. This posting does not offer legal or medical advice, so nothing in it should be construed as legal or medical advice. The information on this blog/post is only offered for informational purposes. You shouldn’t act or rely on anything in this blog or posting or use it as a substitute for legal/medical advice from a licensed professional. The content of this posting may quickly become outdated, especially due to the nature of the topics covered, which are constantly evolving. The materials and information on this posting/blog are not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or timely. Nothing in this posting/blog and nothing you or I do creates a doctor-patient relationship between you and the blog; between you and me; or between you and Randall Wong, M.D. or RetinaEyeDoctor.com. Even if you try to contact me through the blog or post a comment on the blog you are still not creating a doctor-patient relationship. Although, I am a doctor, I’m not YOUR doctor until and unless there is a written agreement specifically providing for a doctor-patient relationship.***


  1. […] best test for macular degeneration (ARMD) is a fluorescein angiogram (FA).  The fluorescein angiogram involves the injection of a dye (not iodine based) called fluorescein. […]

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