Whether eye dilation is necessary for every eye exam depends on the reason for your eye exam, your overall health and your risk of eye diseases.
During an eye exam, your doctor uses special eyedrops to cause eye dilation. The drops cause the black portion at the center of your eye (pupil) to widen, allowing your doctor a good view of the back of your eye. Eye dilation can help your doctor diagnose many diseases and conditions, such as:
- Eye tumors
- High blood pressure
- Infectious diseases
- Macular degeneration
- Retinal detachment
Many diseases and conditions can be detected at their earliest stages during an eye exam. For this reason, most eye doctors recommend eye dilation as part of a routine eye exam schedule.
Still, eye dilation can be inconvenient, since it makes it difficult to focus on close objects. This can interfere with your ability to drive or work for a few hours after your eye exam. Eye dilation also makes your eyes more sensitive to bright light. If eye dilation is a great inconvenience, ask your doctor about other tests to examine the back of your eye. Alternative tests are available, but none is proved to be as effective as an exam that involves eye dilation.
In determining whether eye dilation is necessary for you, your eye doctor may consider:
- Your age. The risk of eye diseases increases with age.
- Your eye health. If you have a history of eye diseases that affect the back of the eye, such as retinal detachment, you may have an increased risk of future eye problems.
- Your overall health. Certain diseases, such as diabetes, increase the risk of eye disease.
- Your reason for an exam. If you're seeking an eye exam because you have new, worrisome eye symptoms or vision problems, then eye dilation may be necessary to make a diagnosis.
- Results of previous eye exams. If recent eye exams have included eye dilation with no unusual findings, it may be possible to skip the eye-dilation portion of your next exam. If this is your first eye exam, it's a good idea to have the eye-dilation portion of the exam. Discuss this with your eye doctor.