If you’ve ever had a comprehensive eye exam, you’ve probably had those eye drops that make your eyesight blurry for a couple of hours. While it may be annoying, those eye drops are for dilating your eyes and are a very important part of your eye exam.
Why dilate your eyes?
By widening the pupils of your eyes, more light can reach the back of the eye allowing your doctor to get a better view. There are many common diseases that have no symptoms in their earliest stages but can be detected through eye dilation. For example:
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)–eye dilation may reveal yellow deposits called drusen or clumps of pigment beneath the retina indicating this disease which is a common cause for vision loss,.
Glaucoma–a dialated eye exam may show changes to the shape and color of the optic nerve fibers or excessive cupping at the place where optic nerve fibers exit the eye to enter the brain. This would indicate glaucoma.
Diabetic Retinopathy–this disease is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. An exam may show swelling or leaking of the blood vessels in the retina or abnormal blood vessel growth indicating diabetic retinopathy.
What to expect during the test
Your doctor will put the eye drops in your eyes, then it will take about 20 minutes for the pupils to fully dilate. They may cause a slight stinging in the eyes and/or a medicine-like taste in your mouth. Once your pupils are dilated, your doctor will shine a bright light in your eyes to see the retina.
What to expect after the test
Be sure to plan for your vision being blurry for up to a few hours after the test. Your doctor may provide you with wraparound sunglasses, but it’s not a bad idea to bring a pair just in case as your eyes will be sensitive to light. Do not drive after a dilated eye exam, so best to take public transportation or bring a friend.
Even though there is some inconvenience associated with a dilated eye exam, the benefits certainly outweigh the negatives. To find an eye doctor near you, visit our Find an eye doctor site.