Intended for healthcare professionals


Viewing the optic fundus . . . and other stories

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 12 December 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6815


In 1851, Hermann von Helmholz invented the ophthalmoscope, allowing doctors to visualise the optic fundus for the first time in living people. A historical note traces the various terms used to describe swelling of the optic nerve head—papillitis, papilloedema, choked disk, and optic neuritis—and the evolution of ideas about the mechanisms of disc swelling and the diseases that lead to it. There’s a useful clinical point: papilloedema (or one of its synonyms) is no more than a descriptive label, and recognition of a swollen optic nerve head is only half way to a diagnosis. The underlying cause also needs to …

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