Speckle arises as a natural consequence of the limited spatial-frequency bandwidth of the interference signals measured in optical coherence tomography (OCT). In images of highly scattering biological tissues, speckle has a dual role as a source of noise and as a carrier of information about tissue microstructure. The first half of this paper provides an overview of the origin, statistical properties, and classification of speckle in OCT. The concepts of signal-carrying and signal-degrading speckle are defined in terms of the phase and amplitude disturbances of the sample beam. In the remaining half of the paper, four speckle-reduction methods-polarization diversity, spatial compounding, frequency compounding, and digital signal processing-are discussed and the potential effectiveness of each method is analyzed briefly with the aid of examples. Finally, remaining problems that merit further research are suggested. © 1999 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.