5 Common Eye Doctor Tools Used During Your Eye Exam

What is THAT?!

For the young and old, eye exams – like all medical exams – can be scary. But they shouldn’t be! Going to the optometrist is vital to your overall health.

So what spooks people? It could be the commonly used eye doctor tools that you’ll see during your exam. While medical equipment often looks intimidating, it becomes less daunting the more you know about it.

With that in mind, here are 5 common eye doctor tools that you’re likely to see during your comprehensive eye exam and what each one does:

1. Snellen Chart

The Snellen Chart is perhaps the most recognizable tool used by eye doctors. It’s a chart featuring a huge ‘E’ at the top and a series of lines with smaller and smaller letters all the way to the bottom. Patients are asked to cover their right or left eye and read the smallest line that they’re able to. The Snellen Chart measures visual acuity – how well you can see objects in the distance. That’s where the term ’20/20 vision’ comes from. It’s a measure of a patient’s vision against the average person’s.

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2. Phoropter

The Phoropter is the alien-looking tool in the image you see above. It measures refractive error (myopia, hyperopia, etc) to determine a prescription for correction with glasses or contacts. The Phoropter is subjective, meaning the patient tells the eye doctor what he or she is seeing through the various applied lenses. The optometrist will ask the patient to identify which lens is clearer through a series of A vs. B questions.

3. Slit Lamp

The Slit Lamp is a microscope with a thin (slit) light source attached. During this stage of the exam, an eye doctor is inspecting the front and external parts of a patient’s eye. This includes things like the eyelid, iris, and cornea. Eye doctors use this tool to look for any abnormalities or conditions that could reveal themselves in the anterior part of the eye. While it’s not necessarily “fun” to have light in your eyes, it is important and painless.

4. Tonometer

Most people are familiar with the non-contact Tonometer a.k.a. the instrument that blows a puff of air into your eye. Another painless and easy test, the Tonometer measures pressure in the eye (formally known as Intraocular pressure). Measuring IOP is critical to ensuring patient eyes have the right internal pressure to maintain their shape and avoid harmful conditions. There are several ways of measuring, but the non-contact Tonometer has gained popularity in recent years.

5. Ophthalmoscope

The Ophthalmoscope is a handheld device used to examine the interior of the eye. Often, this examination comes along with pupil dilation. Dilating a patient’s pupils allows for the eye doctor to get a better view of the structures behind it. While pupil dilation leads to a more complete exam, it’s not necessary in all cases and the interior of the eye can still be inspected with an Opthalmoscope without it.

During your next eye exam, you’ll know what you’re looking at when your eye doctor brings out his or her tools.

Getting a comprehensive eye exam (at least once a year) is critical to your health. There’s nothing scary about going to the eye doctor. Even the tools lose their power once you can call them out by name! If you haven’t been in a while, consider setting an appointment today.

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