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Why Do I Need To Be Dilated When I Have An Eye Exam?

Why do I have to be dilated when I have an eye exam?

When I have an eye examination, my optometrist will ask if I can be dilated.  Why does he/she do that?  Well let me explain that it is a very important part of an eye HEALTH exam.   Part of a thorough eye exam is pupil dilation, which is accomplished by putting eye drops in the eye which will force your pupil to stay open, even in bright light. The procedure is not uncomfortable, it takes about 10 minutes for the drops to work, but it can make your vision “fuzzy” for a little while until the drop’s effects wear off – about 2-4 hours.

When your optometrist does pupil dilation, it allows him/her to see all the way into the back tissue of the eye.  With the aid of a bright light and a magnification lens, your optometrist can inspect the health of the retina, optic nerve, macula, and the blood vessels of the eye.  When your pupils are open, the optometrist will be able to clearly see these parts of the eye and evaluate them.

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What is he/she looking for?

When an optometrist does dilate your eye, he/she can see potential health concerns such as hypertension, cataract growth, glaucoma, and the health of the macula which will show any signs of macular degeneration which is one of the main causes for vision loss in older adults. For these reasons, optometrists ask their patients to submit to the procedure with every eye exam, despite the inconvenience, because they would rather catch serious medical problems early.

Healthy adults should have an eye exam, along with pupil dilation, every one to two years, or more frequently as recommended by an optometrist. People who are at high risk for developing optical conditions may need to have their eyes examined more frequently.


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Now my vision seems blurry.  How do I get home?

The effects of dilation will wear off after 2-4 hours.  Here are several options to consider after a dilation eye exam:

  • Remember to bring a pair of sunglasses along to your eye exam, so the bright light outside will not hurt your eyes after the examination.  Remember your pupil is more open after dilation and we want to keep your eyes protected.  No worries, if you forget your sunglasses, the optometrist's office will usually have a pair of disposable sunglasses as well.
  • If you are worried about feeling disoriented after pupil dilation, you may also want to consider asking someone else to drive you to your eye appointment or accompany you on public transportation.
  • If you are choosing new sunglasses or new prescription glasses, the time you spend in the boutique choosing a new fashionable frame, will usually allow for the time for the dilation to minimize or wear off.


Dilation is a bonus for my eye health! 

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