The Dilated Eye Exam: Here’s What it’s All About

eye-dilationIf you are due for an eye exam, you can expect that your doctor will place drops in your eyes that leave you “double-sighted” for a few hours. The short-lived blurriness that stems from dilating the eyes is well worth it. Here’s why . . .

Why Dilation Matters

The eyes naturally become dilated, or widened, in times of low light. The wider the pupils, the more light that is able to reach the back of the eye. During your eye exam, the amount of light that enters the eye equates to how well ocular structures are observed. Many of the common diseases that threaten long term vision have nearly imperceptible symptoms throughout the earliest stages of onset. Dilation gives us the best possible chance at detecting signs of conditions such as:

  • Diabetic retinopathy. This is an important condition to diagnose early because diabetic retinopathy robs more people of their eyesight than any other condition. The dilated eye exam gives us the opportunity to observe symptoms like abnormal growth in blood vessels or leakage from blood vessels in the retina.
  • Dilation enables us to view the details of optic nerve fibers, such as color and shape. Also, through the widened pupil, it is easier to notice heightened cupping where these nerve fibers intersect between the eye and the brain.
  • Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD.  Symptoms that indicate this potentially serious eye condition include clumping of pigmentation beneath the retina, or yellow deposits near that structure.

What to Expect during Dilation

To dilate the eyes, we insert special eye drops. The pupils respond to the solution over about a twenty minute period, after which light is shone into the eye to view the retina. Eye drops may sting a little. Some patients report a medicine-like taste in the mouth from their eye drops. Neither side-effect is typically uncomfortable.

After your exam, you may wear special throw-away sunglasses that wrap around your face. Some patients double the power of these sunglasses by wearing their normal UV protective glasses over them. In addition to blurred vision, most patients will be extra-sensitive to light until the effects of dilation wear off.

You cannot drive after having your eyes dilated, so plan to have a friend or loved one escort you to your exam.

Contact your Mililani ophthalmologist Dr. Carlos Omphroy at 808-625-5577.

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