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Prospective study of the sensitivity of the Wood’s lamp for common eye abnormalities
  1. Edmond A Hooker1,
  2. William J Faulkner2,
  3. Lisa D Kelly1,
  4. Robert C Whitford1
  1. 1 Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
  2. 2 Urgent Clinic, Cincinnati Eye Institute, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Edmond A Hooker, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio 45267, USA; hookerea{at}


Objective The Wood’s lamp, a handheld instrument that uses long-wave ultraviolet (UV) light with magnification of 2–3 times, is commonly used by non-ophthalmologists for examining patients with eye complaints. The goal of current research was to determine the sensitivity and specificity of the Wood’s lamp for common eye abnormalities.

Study design We examined a convenience sample of patients, 18 years of age and older, who presented for eye complaints to an urgent clinic of a large ophthalmology practice. This prospective observational trial was performed from December 2016 until July 2017. An ophthalmologist examined the patient’s eyes with a Wood’s lamp, followed by examination of the eyes using a slit lamp. The Wood’s lamp was compared with the slit lamp, which served as the gold standard.

Results There were 73 patients recruited. The mean age of study subjects (29 female and 44 male) was 49 years. The overall sensitivity of the Wood’s lamp was 52% (38/73; 95% CI 40% to 64%). Based on the principal final diagnosis made with the slit lamp, the Wood’s lamp only detected 9 of 16 corneal abrasions, 5 of 10 corneal ulcers, 5 of 9 corneal foreign bodies, 0 of 4 cases of non-herpetic keratitis, 1 of 2 cases of herpes keratitis, 1 of 5 rust rings and 18 of 28 other diagnoses.

Conclusions and relevance Examination using the Wood’s lamp fails to detect many common eye abnormalities. Our findings support the need for a slit lamp examination of patients with eye complaints whenever possible.

  • ophthalmology

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  • Contributors All authors contributed to the conception, design and interpretation of the study. EAH managed the data and performed statistical analysis. EAH and RCW drafted the manuscript, and all authors contributed substantially to its revision.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the University of Cincinnati Office of Research Integrity.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Author note The manuscript was drafted using the Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) cross sectional reporting guidelines.

  • Presented at Presented at the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine Annual Meeting, Indianapolis, Indiana, May 2018.