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Why Eye Doctors Dilate Your Eyes: Your Guide to a Dilated Eye Exam

While standard eye exams can diagnose many eye conditions, your doctor may recommend a dilated eye exam to gain a more comprehensive picture of your eye health. But why do eye doctors dilate your eyes, and what are they looking for during the examination? Continue reading to learn more about pupil dilation and what to expect during your next appointment with the experts at Grene Vision Group.  

Why is Pupil Dilation Used During Eye Exams?

During a non-dilated eye exam, it can be difficult for your eye doctor to fully asses your eye health. To thoroughly examine the eyes externally and internally, our optometrists use a specialized bright light and magnifying lens to see through the pupil. The pupil, the central black spot in the eye, adjusts its size to control the amount of light entering the eye.   

However, the pupil tends to constrict in response to bright light, affecting the optometrist's ability to view the eye without obstruction. That's why pupil dilation is an important step in the examination process, as it ensures the pupil remains wide, providing a more expansive view for the optometrist. 

With dilated pupils, our doctors can get a much clearer view of the internal anatomy of your eye. This allows for a comprehensive evaluation of critical structures within the eye. These in-depth examinations are crucial for early detection of eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma, as well as identifying potential issues like retinal detachments or tumors. 

Many eye conditions don't show obvious symptoms in their early stages. Therefore, it's essential for our doctors to examine the inside of your eye thoroughly. Additionally, a dilated eye exam at Grene Vision Group can detect systemic health issues, playing a key role in early detection and preventive eye care. 

How Your Eyes Are Dilated

Doctors complete the eye dilation, a quick and painless process, by first applying a local anesthetic. Eye drops are administered to each eye to keep the pupils wide. Once the eye drops have been applied, your eyes will fully dilate after 15-30 minutes. However, if you have light-colored eyes, it may occur faster, as they usually dilate faster than dark-colored eyes. 

How Long Pupils Remain Dilated

When your pupils are dilated by an eye doctor, the effects typically last 1-2 hours, depending on the type of eye drops used. Ask your doctor for a more exact time frame while completing your eye exam.  

Dilated eyes may cause light sensitivity or blurry vision for a short time after the exam. Luckily, these effects are only temporary, and following these best practices can help you mitigate their impact:  

  • Wear sunglasses immediately after the exam to minimize light sensitivity. Your doctor may provide a disposable pair but bring your own in case they do not.  

  • Bring eyeglasses with you if you wear contacts, as your eye doctor may recommend avoiding contacts while the dilation wears off. 

  • Have a friend or family member drive you home from the appointment. 

Determining How Often You Should Complete a Dilated Eye Exam

Certain risk factors may necessitate more frequent dilated eye exams, allowing for the early detection of potential issues before they escalate. Through regular dilated eye exams at Grene Vision Group, our optometrists can meticulously monitor any changes in your eye health and offer proactive care. Depending on your specific risk factors, our doctors will recommend how often you should complete dilated eye exams to maintain your eye health.   

You will likely need a dilated eye exam every one to two years if you: 

  • Are over the age of 60 

  • Have been diagnosed with diabetes or high blood pressure 

  • Are of African American descent and over age 40 

  • Have a family history of glaucoma 

Schedule a Dilated Eye Exam Today at Grene Vision Group

If you’re at risk of serious eye conditions like glaucoma, a dilated eye exam can help you diagnose and treat eye disease before it worsens and impacts your vision. To protect your eyesight, find a Grene Vision Group near you and schedule a comprehensive eye exam today! 

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Ophthalmology Clinic