Since the time of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, physicians have used the disposable vaginal speculum for examination. Commonly designed as either a tube, or hinged "duckbill" shape, the device is used to dilate and examine body cavities. Various adaptations have been developed including lighted and sheathed specula.
Though reusable models are still available made from metal or glass, the most common commercially available item is a disposable vaginal speculum. Typically, the blades of the device are lightly coated with a medical grade lubricant and inserted into the body cavity in order to dilate it for examination. Applications for the use of a disposable vaginal speculum include applying treatment and collection of samples for testing such as a Pap smear which involves reaching the Cervix. There are two primary varieties, Pederson - for those who are more sensitive, and Graves - to accommodate looser vaginal walls such as after child birth.
In order to expand the applications, a disposable vaginal speculum may be fitted with accessories such as lighting, sheaths, or even screws to fix the blades in position. Sheaths help to protect the light source from any contact with lubricants or other contaminants.
It has become more frequent that physicians are providing a disposable vaginal speculum to patients for home examination to gain better understanding of their body and to monitor vaginal health.