5 Important Tools and Instruments Used by Ophthalmologists

Jan 10, 2024 | Optometry

The eye exam process is one that requires multiple tools and instruments. Ophthalmologists will utilize different medical tools throughout to examine parts of the eye. Understanding this array of tools can help a patient feel at ease during the exam or an ophthalmology student become more familiar with the instruments. There are five important tools and instruments used by ophthalmologists.

Eye Chart

There are two standard types of eye charts all eye doctors use. These are the Sloan and Snellen models, and the Snellen eye chart model is the most popular version used in offices. The patient will stand at a distance and read down the line until the letters are no longer clear. It helps the eye doctor determine which prescription lenses will benefit that individual.


Are you wondering which of the devices measures refractive error, allowing the doctor to test and find the perfect prescription lenses for the patient? That would be the phoropter. Anybody who’s had an eye exam before has experienced this tool. The doctor will bring it in front of the patient and change lens strengths while inquiring as to which lens allows them to see better. The individual will then reply to let the doctor know which lens was clearer.


The tonometer is the device that aids the doctor in measuring the intraocular pressure (IOP) of the eye. They don’t require a lot of maintenance, just replacing the disposable tip covers after administering a test. There are different forms of tonometry tests, such as indentation tonometry with a Tono-pen or an air puff tonometer. Make sure you regularly schedule tonometry tests. They help identify internal eye pressure and determine if a patient is suffering from vision loss due to damaged optic nerves from glaucoma.


Sometimes, patients can’t participate in the A and B questions provided by the doctor during the phoropter exam. The ophthalmologist will then use a retinoscope to measure refractive error instead. A beam of light will shine onto the retina to inspect its movement. This movement helps the eye doctor determine the proper prescription for the patient.


The eye doctor will use an ophthalmoscope to examine the eye’s interior. The built-in mirrors and light source provide the perfect combination for the doctor to thoroughly inspect the retina. Usually, the eye doctor will utilize dilating eye drops for a closer look at the eye’s interior.

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