What is a dilated eye exam and why do I need one?

A dilated eye exam is the best way to check for eye diseases and catch them early. The earlier we catch
diseases and start to treat them, the better the visual outcome typically so it is really important to catch
things as early as possible! Some eye diseases will have no symptoms at the beginning stages so even if
you don’t have any eye problems, a dilated exam is a good idea. At your eye exam, we will check first for
any vision problems like being nearsighted or farsighted. Then, we will put in eye drops that will dilate
(widen) your pupil so that we are able to see more clearly into the eye.

How often do I need a dilated exam?

This answer will be different case to case, so the best way to find out is to ask your eye doctor what is
right for you. It depends on your personal risk for eye disease. Of course, having it done every year
doesn’t hurt.

Definitely get a dilated eye exam every 1-2 years if you:

  • Are over age 60
  • Have a family history or personal history of glaucoma, macular degeneration, or any other eye
  • disease
  • Are diabetic (you will need one every year)
  • Are extremely nearsighted (above -5.00)

What happens during a dilated eye exam?

First, we will check your visual acuity to see how well you can see far away and up close. Then, we do a
visual field test to check peripheral vision. After that, we do an eye muscle test to make sure that the
muscles around the eye are working properly. Then, we check the pupils by shining a light into them to
make sure they respond appropriately to light. After that, we will measure the eye pressure and then
finally dilate the eyes.

How does dilation work?

When I talk to patients about being dilated, I usually compare it to shining a light into a dark room.
When your eyes are not dilated, when I shine the light in, it is like try to see into a room with the door
cracked open. You can see a few things but can’t get the whole picture. With dilation, it is essentially like
opening the door so you can see into all the corners and nooks and crannies of the room.

What happens after a dilated exam?

For a few hours after the exam, your vision may be blurry (up close in particular) and you will be light
sensitive. Most people feel comfortable to drive but if you are at all concerned I would recommend
having someone drive you home from your appointment. We will give you disposable sunglasses to use
to help with the light sensitivity. If everything looks good and there are no signs of any eye diseases, you are all set until next exam. If we find any signs of eye diseases, we may ask that you come back sooner
for a follow-up appointment depending on what it is.

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Dr. Thirion

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