Dilated Eye Exam

Pupil dilation during an eye exam is extremely important at revealing the status of your optic nerve and retina, and it vital to avoiding and dealing with eye conditions that might possibly cause vision loss.

The eye is a lovely organ, and it is the only place in the human body where a doctor can see a part of the main nervous system, the optic nerve. The observation of that nerve is a crucial part of a comprehensive eye assessment.

Both the dilated and the undilated eye exams provide important info to an eye doctor. Let’s explore the undilated exam first.

Man with dilated pupil
People ages 20 to 30 should have an eye exam every two years, unless visual changes, pain, flashes of light, new floaters, injury, or tearing occurs. Then, immediate care is necessary.

The Undilated Eye Exam

One of the first parts of a thorough eye test is a test of your vision, and possibly a measurement to figure out a spectacles prescription, both which require that your eyes remain undilated.

In addition, eye doctors will analyze your pupils’ actions to light prior to dilation. This can be essential for identifying whether the visual paths for each eye are operating appropriately.

There is also an evaluation, called gonioscopy, which permits the doctor to analyze your eye’s drain angle with a special mirrored lens. The “angle” that is being described is the angle in between the iris, makings up the colored part of your eye, and the cornea, which is the clear window front part of your eye. When the angle is open, your ophthalmologist can see most, if not all, of your eye’s drainage system. When the angle is narrow, just portions of the drainage angle show up, and in intense angle-closure glaucoma, none of it is visible.

Part of a glaucoma evaluation is formal visual field screening, where your peripheral, or side vision, is checked. Preferably, your eyes are not dilated during this test.

Finally, there are other parts of the front of the eye, the iris for instance, which must be examined when your eyes are not dilated.

The Dilated Eye Exam

The view to the back of the eye is restricted when the pupil is not dilated. When your pupil is little, an optometrist can see your optic nerve and macula however the view is restricted. In order to see the whole retina, the pupil needs to be dilated. This is accomplished through using eye drops. They typically take about 15-30 minutes to fully dilate the pupils, depending the person’s action to the medication, and generally take 4-6 hours to subside.

As soon as your eyes are dilated, there is a boost in light level of sensitivity since the pupil is big and more light is coming through, so bring your sunglasses, or your eye doctor might supply some disposable tones for your use. You might also experience blurry vision, particularly if you are trying to check out. Some clients feel a “tightening up” or different experience in their eyelids. If it is your very first time having your eyes dilated or you know your vision is too impaired for driving after dilation, bring a buddy or buddy to drive you home from your evaluation. While in the past there were some eye drops that could reverse the dilation, these are no longer offered, so you will have to wait the 4-6 hours prior to the drops completely wear away.

Why Do They Dilate Your Eyes at the Eye Doctor?

Dilation isn’t constantly needed. In truth, if you are seeing your optometrist exclusively to get a prescription, dilation causes potential changes to a prescription that aren’t present in the normal state of the eye when the iris/pupil is not dilated. The exception is when we’re analyzing young kids. We dilate due to the fact that they have a higher capacity to accommodate and to permit the physician to utilize an unbiased step to validate their prescription (i.e. retinoscopy) if they’re not very cooperative. Naturally, it’s always crucial to dilate if we wish to do a total test of the retina.

Aspects your eye doctor thinks about when determining whether eye dilation is required:

  • Age. The threat of eye diseases increases with age — particularly over age 40.
  • Eye health. If you’ve experienced eye illness that impact the back of the eye, such as retinal detachment, you may have an increased danger of future eye problems.
  • Total health. Particular diseases, such as diabetes, increase the danger of eye disease.
  • Factor for the exam. Are you in great health, under 40 and wondering if you require vision correction? You might not require a dilated test this time, however understand that you need to have one a minimum of every few years and more often as you grow older. If it’s your first eye examination, it’s a good idea to go with dilation for a baseline exam. You can discuss this with your doctor. If you have new, worrisome eye symptoms or vision issues, then eye dilation may be necessary to make a diagnosis.
  • Results of previous exams: If recent eye exams have included eye dilation with no unusual findings, it may be possible to skip the eye-dilation portion of your next exam.

What Conditions are Diagnosed with a Dilated Eye Exam?

1. Glaucoma

The optic nerve can be seen through an undilated pupil, but for optimum viewing a dilated pupil is needed. This is necessary for the medical diagnosis of glaucoma, in addition to other illness of the optic nerve.

2. Macular Degeneration

2 typical retinal diseases, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), are diagnosed and kept an eye on by taking a look at the retina through a dilated pupil.

3. Other Conditions

In addition to macular degeneration and glaucoma, there are numerous other conditions that need pupil dilation, such as detection of a retinal tear or detachment, or an ocular tumor, simply to name a few.

How Frequently Should You Have a Comprehensive Dilated Eye Exam?

  • The National Eye Institute typically advises that beginning at age 60 everybody should have a yearly, comprehensive, dilated eye examination.
  • If you are African-American, the suggested age of having a dilated eye examination is 40 years of ages, because of the greater threat of glaucoma.
  • The American Academy of Ophthalmology has specific recommendations for diabetic clients.
    • It is advised that Type 1 diabetics have their first eye test within 5 years of medical diagnosis.
    • Type 2 diabetics, ought to have their eye examination at the time of medical diagnosis.
    • If you are a diabetic woman considering pregnancy, it is suggested to have an examination prior to conception or early in the first trimester.


As part of a thorough eye examination, pupil dilation is crucial at exposing the status of your optic nerve and retina, and is vital to avoiding and dealing with eye conditions that could potentially lead to vision loss.

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