Why You Should Have An Eye Dilation Exam

Posted on: 10 July 2015

Eye dilation is a diagnostic tool that allows optometrists to diagnose eye diseases and other health problems in the early stages. This is important since people often don't experience symptoms of eye and other diseases until after permanent damage has occurred.

Although the eye dilation exam doesn't hurt, it can be slightly uncomfortable. However, what may seem like an inconvenience can save your vision or lead to the detection of other serious health problems.

Why Optometrists Do Eye Dilation Exams

Your eye doctor may dilate your eyes as part of a routine eye exam or if he or she suspects that you may have one of the following eye diseases or health conditions:

  • Cataracts

  • Glaucoma

  • Macular degeneration

  • Retinal detachment or retinal tears

  • Retinal vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels in the retina)

  • Diabetes

  • Eye tumors

  • High blood pressure

  • Impending stroke

  • Infectious diseases

Even if your general health seems good, your optometrist may choose to perform eye dilation during the exam if you:

  • Have a history of eye disease

  • Have a disease, such as diabetes, that increases your risk for eye disease

  • Are experiencing eye or vision symptoms

  • Are age 60 or older, as the risk of developing eye disease increases as you age

What Occurs During the Exam

The optometrist will put drops in your eyes that cause your pupils to widen. Normally, when the doctor shines a light in your eyes, your pupils become smaller. That makes it harder to see inside the eye. Wider pupils let in more light, which helps your doctor see the back of your eye better, particularly the retina and optic nerve.

While it normally takes about 20 minutes for the eye drops to work, some people's eyes, especially individuals with lighter-color eyes, dilate faster. Your eye color and the type of drops the doctor uses also determine for how long your pupils will stay dilated. Light-colored eyes tend to stay dilated longer.

What Happens After the Exam

Since your eyes will remain dilated for several hours, you should bring someone with you to drive you home afterward. Until the eye drops wear off completely, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Blurry vision

  • Feeling slightly disoriented

  • Trouble focusing on small print and nearby objects

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Inability to adjust to changing light conditions

Wearing sunglasses when you go outside following your appointment minimizes glare and light sensitivity. If you forget to bring a pair of sunglasses with you, your optometrist will supply you with a disposable pair. 

To learn more, contact a company like Complete Family Vision Care