The Purpose of the Machines in an Ophthalmologist’s Office

Often times, patients may not find out they need eye surgery until it is too late. While there are situations where surgery is inevitable, you would be surprised at how many disorders can be detected at your routine visit to the eye doctor. All of the machines in your ophthalmologist’s office have a different purpose that can aid it the prevention of having to go through surgery.

When first walking into an ophthalmologist office, it’s easy to feel nervous with all the equipment! Various instruments are used to evaluate your eye health and treat eye disorders. Let’s explore the different machines you might find in your eye doctor’s office and what to expect from each one.


Refractors have numerous lens combinations to help doctors determine what lens power you need to have the best vision. This is one of the most common tests used during a routine visit. When you look through the lens, the ophthalmologist will ask if you can see better out of “one” or “two.”

Autorefractor Keratometer

An autorefractor is used to measure an objective refraction. By looking into the lens and focusing on the picture in the distance, the eye physician can tell which lens power you need to see far away. The autorefractor will also check for various measurements to determine the best prescription.

Corneal Topographer

A corneal topographer creates a map of the front cornea surface to find the best fit for contact lenses. It can also identify corneal disease, irregular astigmatism, and keratoconus. To use the machine, rest your chin on the small shelf, look through the lens, and focus on the red light.

Retinal Fundus Camera

This specialized camera takes pictures of the back of your eye in high resolution. When filters are applied, it can tell eye specialists even more about your eye health. Some of the most common conditions studied from this instrument are glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetes.

Non-contact Tonometer

This machine is used to measure pressure in the eyes and is known informally as the “eye puff” test. Interestingly, this is the only instrument that can measure pressure in the eye without touching it. To have this test done, look through the lens and focus on the light. A puff of air will blow into the eye.

Slit Lamp

The slit lamp is used to look at various parts of the eye. The lighting and magnifying power can be adjusted to better see your eyes from front to back. To the patient, it simply feels like a bright light – no discomfort!

There are other types of machines that may be used during an eye exam depending on the types of conditions you have or are at risk for. However, the above instruments are most common during a routine eye exam. They may look invasive, but most eye equipment is comfortable for the patient and informative to ophthalmologist.

As stated earlier, there are cases where surgery may be needed, whether you have a yearly eye exam or not. Be sure that you are in the right hands with a retinal specialist capable of handling the care you need.