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November 7, 2013: Drs Eyecare Dilated Eye Exams

A dilated eye exam is part of a comprehensive eye examination that allows your eye care professional to completely evaluate the health of your eyes including the lens, retina, and optic nerve. This is a painless procedure that involves using eye drops to widen (dilate) the pupils so your eye doctor can see into the back of your eyes, and look for common vision problems or ocular diseases that may not be detected otherwise. Without dilation, the doctor can only see a small portion of the back of your eye, like looking into a room through a key-hole. By dilating the pupil, your doctor will be able to see out to the edges of your eyes and view more detail.

The crystalline lens is the clear part of your eye that allows light to pass through and focus on the retina. Located just behind the pupil, the lens is also the site of cataract formation. The retina is the back lining of the eye where images are formed. It contains the macula (responsible for central vision, like reading) as well as the only visible blood vessels in the body. The optic nerve begins at the back of the eye and is responsible for sending visual signals to the brain to be interpreted as images. This is the part of the eye that is affected by glaucoma. The health of these structures are being evaluated during the dilated examination. Evaluation of the retina can also help your doctor to detect signs of other systemic conditions that may have an effect on your eye health. Some common problems that are detected during dilated eye exams include: cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, retinal holes, retinal detachments, eye tumors, signs of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and risk for stroke. Many of these conditions may have no other symptoms or warning signs, and can be detected at their earliest stages during an eye exam. In addition to measuring you for glasses or contact lenses, your eye doctor may therefore recommend dilation as part of your routine comprehensive eye exam.

Dilation is a very safe procedure with few side effects. After the examination you should expect your close-up vision to be blurred for several hours. You may also experience some sensitivity to light during this time. It may be helpful to bring a pair of sunglasses as well as your spectacles if you are a contact lens wearer.