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Why Your Eye Doctor Dilates Your Eyes at an Eye Exam

During an eye examination, your eye doctor looks through your pupils to physically inspect the anterior chamber of the eyes. By using dilating drops, he can temporarily paralyze the muscles that control the iris and roughly double the size of the average pupil. The following offers insight as to why your eye doctor does this and what to expect.

Improved Exam and Diagnosis
The larger pupil size increases the view of the retinal area by up to seven times and allows for a three-dimensional inspection. This results in improved recognition of eye conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and retinal disorders, as well as systemic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Improved Eye Prescription Accuracy
Dilating drops temporarily restrict your eyes’ natural ability to change focus (called accommodation). By pausing your eyes’ focus and not having to chase a moving target, your eye doctor can more clearly define the best possible prescription for your eyes.

Expect a Temporary Loss of Focus
The loss of accommodation that helps your eye doctor during the exam becomes a temporary problem for the patient afterward. This inability to focus makes it impossible to do any reading for several hours and is why your eye doctor asks you to bring someone with you to your eye appointment in order to drive you home.

Expect Sensitivity to Light
By locking the pupils in an open position, your eye doctor temporarily disables your eyes’ ability to protect themselves from bright light. Therefore, for a few hours after the exam, sunglasses might be required.

Dilating your eyes at an eye exam is an inconvenience that lasts only a few hours. The advantages a dilated exam gives your eye doctor in detecting, diagnosing and treating eye problems early can last a lifetime.

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