Your eyes may seem healthy, but a dilated eye exam is the only way to be completely sure.
What is a Comprehensive Dilated Eye Exam (and why you need one)
What is a Comprehensive Dilated Eye Exam?
Dilation enables your Ophthalmologist to view the inside of the eye allowing him/her to identify and diagnose eye problems that they may otherwise not see. Drops placed in each eye widen the pupil, which is the opening in the center of the iris (the colored part of the eye). Dilating the pupil allows more light to enter the eye the same way opening a door allows light into a dark room. The National Eye Institute states that once dilated, each eye is examined using a special magnifying lens that provides a clear view of important tissues at the back of the eye, including the retina, the macula, and the optic nerve.
What can a dilated eye exam do?
According to The National Eye Institute, a comprehensive exam can help your doctor diagnose problems in your eye that you might not even notice, including:
- Diabetic retinopathy, the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in the United States, the exam may show swelling or leaking of blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive layers of tissue at the back of the eye. The eye care professional may also see abnormal growth of blood vessels in the retina associated with diabetic retinopathy.
- In age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common cause of vision loss and blindness in people over the age of 50, the exam may show yellow deposits called drusen or clumps of pigment beneath the retina. In some cases, the exam may also show abnormal growth of blood vessels beneath the retina. These AMD-related changes tend to cause deterioration of a small area of the retina called the macula, which is needed for sharp, central vision.
- A comprehensive dilated eye exam is also critical for detecting glaucoma, a disease that damages the optic nerve, which carries information from the eyes to the brain. In a person with glaucoma, the dilated exam may show changes in the shape and color of the optic nerve fibers. The exam may also show excessive cupping of the optic disc, the place where the optic nerve fibers exit the eye and enter the brain.
How often do I need a dilated eye exam?
According to the National Eye Institute, it is recommended that you have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at age 50, or before – by an experienced ophthalmologist. It’s also especially important for people with diabetes to have a comprehensive dilated exam at least once a year.
How long after my dilated eye exam can I drive?
During dilation, your vision is blurred and you may experience sensitivity to light. If your eyes will be dilated for an exam or procedure, you may want to bring sunglasses with you to alleviate the glare and light sensitivity when you leave your appointment.
The effects of dilating eye drops can last just a few hours but it depends on the type of eye drop used and how your eyes react. The American Academy of Ophthalmology explains, it may not be safe to drive yourself after having your eyes dilated. You should make arrangements to have someone drive you after your appointment.