Our eyes can tell us so much about our health. That’s why getting a good look inside them can be so essential to our overall well-being.
Eye dilation is a common procedure that can help your doctor better examine your eyes’ health and structure. Here are a few reasons you might benefit from this more in-depth eye examination and what to expect when your eyes are dilated.
The pupil serves as the window to the rest of your eye, and because it gets smaller when exposed to light, it can be hard to see much through the pupil. With just a few drops of medication, your doctor is able to stop your pupil from getting smaller, which pulls back the curtains and allows him or her to see inside your eye.
This is a great opportunity for your doctor to examine your retina, which is located in the back of your eye and difficult to see when your pupil is not dilated. He or she will be able to look for issues with the retina (like macular degeneration, retinal tears, diabetic retinopathy) and even look for irregularities in the optic nerve (like glaucoma).
While eye dilation may not be part of every eye exam, doctors are more likely to suggest it for certain individuals whose age and health put them at greater risk for vision issues. Older patients, patients with diabetes, and patients with very strong prescriptions are much more likely to need their eyes dilated at every visit to ensure there are no signs of eye diseases, retinal detachment, or other issues. Your doctor might also be inclined to do the procedure if he or she saw something irregular during your initial exam, if any pictures or images were concerning, or if you mention experiencing vision problems or pain.
If your eyes are dilated during your annual exam, your doctor will let you know that he or she is going to take a closer look inside your eye. If you’re wearing glasses or contact lenses, they will be removed, and a few eye drops will be put into each of your eyes. You’ll sit in a darkened room while your eyes begin to dilate. This process can take up to 30 minutes.
Once your eyes have fully dilated, your doctor will come back to do a thorough examination. This includes shining a light into your eyes and you moving your eye around for the doctor to get a good look at the entire eye, retina, and optic nerve. Your doctor will then review the results with you in the office.
After you’re finished with the exam, you can wear your glasses or contact lenses again. However, you may notice blurred vision, trouble focusing on close objects, and sensitivity to light. This is normal and will usually last up to four to six hours after your exam as your pupils return to normal size. During that time, it is suggested that your wear sunglasses or protective eyewear to help keep bright light from bothering your eyes. Your eye doctor will provide disposable eye wear if needed.
Any new eye exam can be intimidating, but knowing what to expect when your eyes are dilated and why your eye doctor might suggest it helps you understand how important this simple procedure is. Don’t forget to ask your eye doctor to discuss pupil dilation with you at your next comprehensive eye exam.
EPF Eye Care—formerly Evans, Piggott, & Finney—is a private optometry practice with locations in Lafayette, West Lafayette, and Attica, Indiana. With ten eye doctors and five locations, EPF offers convenient and specialty eye care for the entire family.