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Dilation Drops: Why They are Needed

Dilation Drops: Why They are Needed
When your eye doctor dilates your pupils during an eye exam, it allows them to thoroughly exam the health of the retina and the optic nerve. During a comprehensive eye exam, your eyes are examined both undilated and dilated to provide the doctor with valuable information about your eyeglass prescription, eye health, and more.

The First Part of Your Eye Exam: Undilated 

An initial undilated exam is just as crucial as the dilated exam because it can provide your eye doctor with valuable information. When your eyes are undilated, your eye doctor can test your vision, examine the front of the eye such as the iris, and can also take measurements that will help determine your eyeglass prescription.

When your eyes are undilated, your doctor will also examine your pupil’s response to light. This test helps to determine if the visual pathways of each eye are functioning correctly. Also, if you are being examined for glaucoma, your eye doctor will perform visual field testing to test your peripheral and side vision while your eyes are undilated.

Why a Dilated Eye Exam is Important

Although your eye doctor can see the macula and optic nerve when the pupil is undilated, this view is limited and does not provide a thorough exam. By dilating the pupils with dilation eye drops, the entire retina can be viewed.

These medicated eye drops can take about 15 to 30 minutes to dilate the pupils fully. You can expect your pupils to remain dilated for about 4 to 6 hours.

Side Effects of Dilation Drops

When your eyes are dilated, you can expect an increase in light sensitivity. This is because the pupil is large, allowing more light to come through. Your vision may also become blurry, especially when trying to read. You may also experience a different sensation or a feeling of tightness in your eyelids.

Be sure to bring your sunglasses with you to your appointment if you expect to have your eye dilated and also be sure to plan to have a friend or family member drive you home if it is the first time you’ve had your eyes dilated or if you know your vision will be too impaired to drive.

Conditions a Dilated Eye Exam Can Diagnose

Dilated eye exams can be used to diagnose conditions such as:

Macular Degeneration

Diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are two common retinal diseases. They are both diagnosed and monitored through an examination of the retina via a dilated pupil.


Glaucoma is a condition that affects your optic nerve. While your eye doctor can view your optic nerve without dilating your pupils, they must dilate the pupils to get a full, comprehensive view to examine for optic never conditions like glaucoma.

Other conditions such as retinal tear or detachment or ocular tumors also require pupil dilation to diagnose and monitor them effectively.

Schedule Your Eye Exam Today

Regular comprehensive eye exams are crucial to keeping your eyes healthy. In addition to updating your prescription, a comprehensive eye exam can also help to provide an early diagnosis of severe eye conditions, allowing for early treatment and the prevention of vision loss. With a comprehensive dilated eye exam, Dr. Dittman and his experienced staff can determine the health of your retina and optic nerve to help preserve your vision health.

Contact us today or use our convenient online scheduling tool to make an appointment today!

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