One of the most common tests performed during an annual eye examination involves the dilation of your eyes’ pupils. It’s the only way to check for eye-related problems early on before they result in vision loss. In this article, we answer some of the frequently asked questions about dilated eye exams.
What Is a Dilated Eye Exam?
A dilated eye exam allows your doctor to identify a potential eye-related condition at its early stages and treat or manage it before it gets worse. Dilation is especially important if you’re experiencing eye pain or vision problems. Your pupil generally gets smaller when light shines into it. In a dilated eye exam, your doctor uses special eye drops to force the pupil to stay open, allowing them to see much more of the back of the eye, from the retina to the optic nerve.
How Long Does a Dilated Eye Exam Last?
Each person has a different reaction to the dilation drops. After the drops are administered, it typically takes 15 to 30 minutes to achieve fully dilated pupils. Most people’s eyes are back to normal after four to six hours, although some individuals may experience eye dilation longer. If it’s your first time undergoing a dilated eye exam, it’s best to have someone else drive you home from your appointment. It’s also a good idea to bring sunglasses as there is an increase in light sensitivity.
How Often Do I Need to Schedule a Dilated Eye Exam?
The National Eye Institute (NEI) advises people starting at age 60 to have an annual dilated eye exam. If you are African-American, however, the recommended age for having a comprehensive dilated exam is 40 years since you are at higher risk for glaucoma. Meanwhile, the American Academy of Ophthalmology® has specific recommendations for diabetic patients. Type 1 diabetics should have their first eye exam within five years of diagnosis while Type 2 diabetics should have their eye exam at the time of diagnosis.
What Eye Conditions Can Your Doctor Spot Through Dilated Eye Exams?
During a dilated eye exam, your eye doctor can diagnose eye diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy. Some common signs of this disease include blood vessels that leak, swell or grow abnormally in the retina. If there is damage to the optic nerve, your doctor may diagnose you with glaucoma. Protein or pigment buildup and unusual growth of blood vessels, meanwhile, are signs of age-related macular degeneration. Since almost all of these conditions are painless, you may not even know you have one unless you schedule a dilated eye exam.
When it comes to eye care, turn to the pros at Guilford Eye Center. Our team of eye doctors provides comprehensive eye exams to residents of High Point, NC, and the surrounding communities in the Piedmont Triad region. Call us today at (336) 292-4516, or fill out our online contact form to schedule an appointment.