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The Do's and Don'ts of Eye Dilation

Most eye care professionals recommend an annual eye exam as a general rule of thumb. However, there may come a time that your doctor wants you to consider a dilated eye exam. Certain people have an increased risk of eye diseases that aren't visible with an undilated routine eye exam. If the doctor wants to check for these diseases, they need a more comprehensive method, a dilated eye exam, to detect them.

What is a Dilated Eye Exam?

A dilated eye exam involves widening, or dilating, the pupil so the eye doctor can get a better view into your eye. The doctor dilates the eye using special eye drops. It’s not a painful process, and is tolerated well by most people. Dilating drops cause the pupil, or black part of the eye, to grow bigger, allowing  your doctor to have a more comprehensive view of the structures inside the eye.

What Diseases Can be Seen with Dilation?

As we age, our eyes age too. Because of that, diseases such as retinopathy, macular degeneration, and glaucoma can form. Most adults should get a dilated eye exam every year. Dilation allows the doctor to see the parts of the eye that can suffer damage more commonly: the macula, the retina, and the optic nerve.

  • Diabetic Retinopathy - Occurs due to abnormal growth of blood vessels in the retina, swelling, and leaking of the blood vessels. If left untreated, a person's vision may grow blurry or distorted, and eventually, blindness can occur.
  • Macular Degeneration - Related to damage in the retina, this is usually caused by the collection of deposits beneath the retina and/or the abnormal growth of blood vessels. Although there is no cure for macular degeneration, there may be treatments your doctor can recommend which may slow the progression of the disease.
  • Glaucoma - This occurs due to damage to the optic nerve. There are generally no symptoms of glaucoma due to its slow progression, however it can be easily detected with a dilated eye exam.  Untreated, glaucoma may result in irreversible blindness.

By getting dilated eye exams on a regular basis, the doctor can detect these issues in the early stages. Treatment to prevent or slow down the disease progression can begin before severe damage occurs.

The Do's and Dont's of Dilation

Due to the increased size of the pupil and the excess amount of light entering the eye, there are some things you should know after about a dilated eye exam. After dilation, your vision may be blurry and sensitive to light. Remember these tips for after your exam:


  • Drive after your exam
  • Spend time in bright light for long periods of time


  • Have someone drive you home
  • Wear sunglasses
  • Call your doctor if your eyes stay dilated longer than 24 hours

Dilated eye exams are a painless and thorough way for your doctor to assess the health of your eye. To prevent and treat diseases before they affect your vision, follow their recommendations for dilation and eye exams. Contact us today to schedule an exam with one of our amazing eye doctors.