What is a Slit Lamp Exam?
The slit lamp is a standard diagnostic procedure, which is also known as bio microscopy. A slit lamp combines a microscope with a very bright light. When performing a comprehensive eye exam, the slit lamp is typically included. The optometrist uses this instrument to observe the eye in detail and determine whether there are abnormalities or not. Results are immediate so they will be to able to discuss this with the patient.
Optometrists use the slit lamp as part of a complete eye exam to get a better look at the patient’s eye structure which include the following:
- Conjuntiva: Is a thin, clear, membrane that covers the white part of the eye. It also includes the membranous surface of the inner eyelids.
- Cornea: Is the transparent covering of the iris and pupil. It protects the eye and helps to send light through the pupil to the retina at the back of the eye.
- Eyelids: These help to protect the eyeball from debris or injury. Blinking helps to lubricate the eye and prevent the eye from drying out.
- Iris: Is the coloured part of the eye. It controls the amount of light going into the eye by constricting and dilating the pupil.
- Pupil: Is the black dot in the middle of the eye. It allows light to enter the eye and travel to the retina.
- Lens: The lens sits behind the iris and focuses the light onto the retina.
- Sclera: Is the white part of the eye. It consists of relatively tough fibrous tissue that helps to provide structure and protection for the rest of the eye.
- Retina: Is the eye tissue containing the cells that sense light. These cells link to nerves that eventually join to form the optic nerve.
After an initial look at the eyes, the optometrist may apply a special dye called Flourescein to help make the eye exam easier. They will administer this as an eye drop or on a small, thin paper strip that touches the white of the eye.
The optometrist will then administer a series of eye drops that will dilate the pupils and will then repeat the exam. This time they will hold a particular lens close to the eye. The procedure does not hurt, but there may be some brief stinging when the eye drops are administered.
An optometrist would be able to detect a range of conditions by carrying out a slit lamp examination. Among many others they may observe abnormalities such as:
- Corneal injury or disease
- Damage to the sclera
- A detachment of the retina
- Damage to the retina or to the vessels that supply it
- Macular degeneration, an eye disease that destroys the central vision
- Disease or swelling of the middle layer of the eye
- Diseases of the optic nerve, such as glaucoma
- Bleeding of the eye
- Presence of a foreign body in the eye.
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