Objective To evaluate indications, results and strategy of retinal exams requested at Primary Care Units. Methods A retrospective study that analyzed the indications and results of retinal exams, in the modalities clinical dilated fundus exams and color fundus photographs. In the following situations, patients were considered eligible for color fundus photographs if visual acuity was normal and ocular symptoms were absent: diabetes mellitus and/or hypertension, in use of drugs with potential retinal toxicity, diagnosis or suspicion of glaucoma, stable and asymptomatic retinopathies, except myopia greater than -3.00 diopters. Results A total of 1,729 patients were evaluated (66% female, age 63.5±15.5 years), and 1,190 underwent clinical dilated fundus exam and 539 underwent color fundus photographs. Diabetes was present in 32.2%. The main indications were diabetes (23.7%) and glaucoma evaluation (23.5%). In 3.4% of patients there was no apparent indication. The main results were a large cup/disc ratio (30.7%) and diabetic retinopathy (13.2%). Exam was normal in 9.6%, detected peripheral changes in 7% and could not be performed in 1%. Considering patients eligible for fundus photographs (22.4%), more than half underwent clinical dilated fundus exams. Conclusion Regarding exam modality, there were no important differences in the distribution of indications or diagnosis. Color fundus photograph is compatible with telemedicine and more cost-effective, and could be considered the strategy of choice in some scenarios. Since there are no clear guidelines for retinal exams indications or the modality of choice, this study may contribute to such standardization, in order to optimize public health resources.