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Purpose of a Slit Lamp Exam

February 14, 2019

When you come to OCLI for your initial examination, there is a very likely chance that you will undergo a slit lamp exam as part of the process. We’re going to walk you through the procedure and what the slit lamp exam can show your ophthalmologist.   

The exam will begin with the doctor applying a special dye to your eyes which will ease the examination. The dye is called fluorescein and is administered either as an eye drop or by being placed on the end of a small paper strip that is touched to the white of the eye. Following the application of the fluorescein, the doctor will then administer a series of eye drops that will dilate the pupils on the eye. The pupil dilation makes it easier for the doctor to be able to see the structures of the eye. The drops can take around 20 minutes to dilate the pupils to their maximum aperture, which is when the exam will begin. This initial process of drops in the eye will likely be pain-free, although you could feel some slight burning when the eye drops are applied. 

Once your eyes are prepared for the examination, you will be seated in front of the slit lamp exam device. This is several different pieces of equipment combined into one larger machine. It will include a binocular microscope that is on a base. This allows the microscope to move in an arc and help the doctor see all parts of the eye. There is also an adjustable light source and a metal frame which you will be able to rest your head during the exam. In most cases, there is a headrest and a chin rest. 

So, what exactly is the doctor looking for during the exam? The doctor is likely looking at a number of different things that can impact your eye health: 

  • The skin around the eye. The doctor will be looking for any kind of skin disease, infection, or any kind of small cut that could lead to infection or other eye problems.
  • Eyelids and eyelashes.An oil gland infection is known as a sty, or a hair follicle infection called folliculitis are common conditions that can be found through this exam. In some rare cases, a doctor can also find small tumors that may be developing around the eye. 
  • The Sclera. This is the outer protective layer of your eye. Your doctor will also look at theepisclera which is next to the sclera. These parts of the eye can have issues due to allergies or autoimmune disorders. 
  • The surface of the eye.This is the tissue over the whites of your eyes or under the eyelids.  
  • The cornea.This is the layer of the eye that contributes to the focusing of your vision. As you age, this can become cloudy and develop into cataracts. The slit eye exam can help your doctor notice clouding of the eye begin and allow him to take proactive steps to halt the progression of cataracts. 
  • The retina and the optic nerve.These are the parts of the back of the eye that required the dilation drops for the pupils. The doctor can see if there are any tears or detachments in the retina that require immediate action. They can look to see if there is damage to the optic nerve that can indicate the development of glaucoma. The slit lamp exam is a key part of a glaucoma diagnosis. 

There are many other things that your doctor can examine as well in the slit lamp exam. We hope that you can see how valuable this exam is to your doctor and why it’s a vital part of an eye examination. 

If you’re in need of an eye exam, the staff at OCLI would be more than happy to set you up with an appointment. Just call the OCLI team today!


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