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What is an Eye Speculum?

By T. Broderick
Updated Jan 22, 2024
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An eye speculum is a medical device that keeps the eye open during a surgery or examination. A variety of speculums exist. Some are disposable while others, usually models intended for surgery, have the option of fine tuning how far the speculum will open through the use of a small hand-turned screw. All eye speculums are made from lightweight metals to ensure durability and patient comfort.

Operations including laser eye surgery, corneal transplant and glaucoma surgery all require the use of a speculum. Before the operation begins, the surgeon will insert the speculum. Where the eye speculum touches the eye, there is a convex surface to rest against the eyeball. This feature makes the patient more comfortable by reducing pressure against the eye. The use of an eye speculum will require the surgeon to regularly apply moistening eye drops throughout the operation.

An eye speculum is not always used during an eye examination, but an ophthalmologist may find one necessary if the patient is a small child or elderly person suffering from a degenerative condition such as dementia. In these cases a doctor is more likely to use a disposable eye speculum. Though sanitary like their operating room counterparts, a disposable eye speculum will keep the eye open using the natural tension in the metal. The inability to adjust the device may cause unnecessary discomfort to the patient. To minimize any pain, the ophthalmologist may use numbing eye drops to make the patient more comfortable during the examination.

All eye speculums are made from a variety of lightweight metals such as aluminum and titanium. There are two advantages in this choice of material. First, the light weight means less pressure on the eye during a long operation. More importantly, an eye speculum specifically designed for the operating room is a surgical instrument just like a scalpel. As surgeons need to reuse them in future operations, a speculum must be able to withstand sterilization in an autoclave. With proper care, an eye speculum can provide many years of service.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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