Eye examination

The specialist eye doctor (ophthalmologist) will examine your eyes using a few different instruments. They look at the different structures of your eye to check for changes or abnormalities.

What happens before the eye examination?

You usually have drops into your eyes before the examination. These enlarge the pupils to make it easier for the eye specialist to look in your eyes. The eye drops might sting a bit when they first go in. They can cause blurred vision, and your eyesight may be blurry for a few hours, so you shouldn't drive yourself home. It might be helpful to take a relative or friend to your appointment.

The eye examination

The eye specialist will examine your eyes with a few different instruments. They look at the different structures of your eye to check for changes or abnormalities.


Your eye specialist might examine your eyes using a hand held device called an ophthalmoscope. This shines a light into the back of your eye. It usually takes a few minutes.

Picture showing opthalmoscope
Eye examination using an ophthalmoscope

Slit lamp examination

You may also have your eyes examined with an instrument called a slit lamp. This is larger than the ophthalmoscope and sits on a table. This instrument has a bright light and powerful microscope so the doctor can look at the front and back of your eye in detail.

This test takes about 30 minutes. You usually have drops put into your eye to enlarge the pupils. You sit on a chair in front of the slit lamp and rest your chin and forehead on the instrument. This keeps your head steady during the test, so the doctor can have a clear view of the different parts inside your eyes. You often have photographs or digital images taken of your eyes. These are kept in your medical records.

Photograph showing lit lamp
Eye examination using a slit lamp

Things to remember

  • you can have blurred vision for 4 to 6 hours after you have the eye drops
  • avoid driving until your usual (normal) vision has returned
  • your eyes can be sensitive to light for a short time afterwards - this is due to the bright light used to look into your eye
  • if you normally wear contact lenses you may not be able to put your lenses back in straight away
  • it may help to bring your glasses (spectacles), to use until you can put your lenses back in - this is usually around 30 minutes after this test

Getting your results

You may have to wait to get the results.

Waiting for results can make you anxious. Ask your doctor or nurse how long it will take to get them. Contact the doctor who arranged the test if you haven’t heard anything after a couple of weeks.

You might have contact details for a specialist nurse and you can contact them for information if you need to. It may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel.

You can also contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

  • Uveal Melanoma Guidelines
    Melanoma Focus, January 2015

  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (11th edition)
    VT DeVita, TS Lawrence, SA Rosenberg
    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2018

  • Progress in the management of patients with uveal melanoma. The 2012 Ashton Lecture
    ​B Damato
    Eye (London), 2012.  Vol 26, Issue 9, Pages 1157-1172

Last reviewed: 
23 Sep 2021
Next review due: 
23 Sep 2024

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