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Why Are Dilated Eye Exams So Important?

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Having your eyes dilated during an eye exam is an important part of preventative healthcare, and the only way to thoroughly assess the health of your eyes. Even if your vision is 20/20, you could still have a serious sight-threatening condition that may not be able to be diagnosed without a dilated eye exam.

What Are Dilated Eye Exams? 

At some point during a comprehensive eye exam, your optometrist will shine a bright light into your eyes to examine the back of your eye, called the retina. The problem is that bright light causes the size of the pupil’s opening to shrink, which makes it hard for the optometrist to see a large portion of the retina. 

That’s why eye doctors apply special eye drops in each eye to keep the pupils open. A dilated pupil allows for a much more accurate assessment of your eye’s structures, including the focusing lens, blood vessels and tissues at the back of the eye called the retina, as well as the optic nerve and macula. 

Dilating the eyes makes it easier for your optometrist to detect the following conditions and diseases: 

  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma 
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Macular degeneration
  • Retinal tumor 
  • Retinal detachment or retinal tears
  • Eye floaters

It’s important to note that many of these conditions can develop without noticeable symptoms, until they cause vision loss at which point treatment may be more challenging, making dilated eye exams all the more crucial. 

The Dilation Process

First, your eye doctor will apply eye drops to each eye to trigger dilation of the pupil. Your eyes should be fully dilated about 10-20 minutes later. 

Your eyes will remain dilated for 4-6 hours, and during this time you may be sensitive to light. That’s because the larger pupil allows more light than usual to enter the eye. Many patients find it more comfortable to wear sunglasses until their eyes return to normal. 

Most people feel comfortable driving after having their eyes dilated, but you are always welcome to bring a driver with you if your prefer. 

Dilated eye exams are a crucial part of keeping your eyes healthy. To schedule your comprehensive eye exam, call Artisan Optics in Boise today!