This is a question that eye doctors hear on a daily basis from their patients. Getting your eyes dilated makes you more sensitive to the sunlight, it can make your vision a little blurry, and it lasts for a few hours; so many people just don’t enjoy having it done. Many people don’t understand the purpose behind this seemingly inconvenient procedure.
What many people do not realize is how important a dilated eye examination is. It is often the only way for the doctor to really see all the parts of the retina. When the eye is dilated the doctor can properly and easily examine patients for the possibility of retinal detachments, diabetes or high blood pressure changes in the eye. It is the best way to look for cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma in the eye. The doctor can even look for cancer in the eye when it is dilated. The problem with many eye diseases and systemic diseases that are found in the eye, decreased vision is many times not the first symptom. So examining the entire retina is very important in the discovery of these diseases.
The purpose of the dilation is to actually make the pupil larger, this literally increases the window or view into the retina. A normal size pupil constricts or gets smaller when light is shined in it, so it makes it very difficult to view the retina, let alone being able to see all of it. There are different concentrations of medicine that can dilate the eye and many doctors can use “more mild” drops to achieve adequate dilation that may cause the effects from dilation not to last as long.
The color of the eye or iris color influences how easily and how long dilation lasts. A blue or green eye often dilates very easily; whereas a brown eye doesn’t dilate as quickly, but may last a little longer. The pigment or color in the iris often holds on the dilating medicine longer in a darker eye. However, darker eyes in general are not as sensitive to the sunlight so they often don’t notice that the effects last a little longer. It is very important to wear sunglasses after being dilated because the pupil is not able to constrict in the light until the medicine wears off. Your eye doctor will often provide temporary sunglasses for you to wear after dilation. Near vision is most often the most effected by dilation. If a person is farsighted it can be harder to see at distance as well as near following dilation; so being careful while driving is very important. If you are unable to have your eyes dilated to do a commitment or important project at work/school, you can often ask your eye doctor to reschedule that portion of the exam at a later date that is more convenient for you at no extra cost. The importance is to have the dilation performed. Ask your doctor if they have a dilation policy.
The temporary inconvenience of being dilated is a very small exchange for the true benefits of being re-assured that there are not any sight threatening or even possibly life threaten conditions that may be found in the eye. If there are any abnormalities found, hopefully, treatment will be possible to persevere you eyesight due to regular dilated eye exams. Eye examinations are recommended every year.
Dr. Laura Young, OD, owner of Premier Family Eye Care