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An FAQ For Getting Your Eyes Dilated

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Dr. Marc Weinstein

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Getting your eyes dilated is a normal part of most routine eye exams. It can sound uncomfortable or even scary if you've never had your eyes dilated before. In most cases, it's an easy and pain-free process with temporary side effects. We’ve put together this comprehensive FAQ to answer the most common questions about eye dilation and to help you prepare for your next visit to the optometrist!

Why Do I Need To Get My Eyes Dilated?

While it may seem like a bother, dilation helps the optometrist to get the best look at the inside of your eyes. When light is shined into a healthy eye, the pupil will get smaller allowing less light to enter. This makes it difficult for a healthcare provider to fully see the retina or optic nerve. Dilation forces the pupil to stay open, allowing for a clearer view into the back of your eye, which is necessary to assure good eye health and to check for any eye disease.

How Will My Eyes Be Dilated?

In most cases, it’s very easy to get your eyes dilated. First, your doctor will put special eye drops into each eye. Then you will have to wait for the drops to take effect, which typically takes between 10-30 minutes. During this time, you might notice your vision start to become blurry, but not to the point where you are unable to see. Once your eyes are fully dilated, the optometrist will shine a light into your eyes and may ask you to look in different directions so they can get a full view.

What Will My Doctor Look For During My Dilated Eye Exam?

Once your eyes are dilated, your eye doctor will look for any signs of blood vessel damage that can be caused by diabetes or high blood pressure. Your optic nerve will also be examined for signs of glaucoma.Some other conditions that can be detected during a dilated eye exam are, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, retinal tears or detachments, eye tumors, and other potentially serious eye diseases and conditions.

Does It Hurt To Get Your Eyes Dilated?

Eye dilation can be unenjoyable but typically doesn't hurt. Some people may experience a slight stinging sensation as the drops are administered which can result in their eyes watering. Others may find that their vision is a bit more blurry than they are used to, which can be uncomfortable. However, in most cases, there is no pain at all and the effects of dilation wear off completely before the end of the day.  

Are There Any Side Effects After Getting Your Eyes Dilated?

After dilating your eyes, expect your vision to be a little blurry until the effects wear off. Blurry vision can cause some people to develop a headache, so having headache relief on hand is a great idea just in case. Your eyes may also be more sensitive to light during this time, so it is always a good idea to bring sunglasses with you to your eye exam. Many doctors will also provide disposable sun protection for their patients to wear after getting their eyes dilated too. These side effects typically wear off after 4 to 6 hours, although some people may be back to normal much faster or take a little longer.

How Should I Prepare To Get My Eyes Dilated?

Be sure to bring a pair of sunglasses with you to your eye exam to help minimize eye sensitivity caused by the dilation drops. Expect your appointment to take a little longer than usual since the eyedrops can take up to 30 minutes to become effective. While most people can still drive after getting their eyes dilated, farsighted people may struggle with blurry distance vision until the effects wear off. If your appointment is on a sunny day, glare when driving can be extra bothersome with dilated pupils. It may be best to arrange a ride to and from your eye appointment, especially for your first time having your eyes dilated. Many people prefer having a safe ride until they know how the dilation drops will affect them, but find that they are completely fine to drive themselves to any subsequent eye exams that require dilation. Finally, don’t schedule strenuous activities right after your appointment. Taking a short nap or resting at home will give your eyes a break until the effects of dilation have ceased.

Who should get their eyes dilated?

Anyone who needs glasses or receives regular eye care will probably get a dilated eye exam. In most cases, eye dilation will happen annually or every other year and will not be a part of most routine exams. Many people over the age of 60 are at an increased risk for eye disease which means it will be more important to get dilated eye exams regularly. Patients with a high degree of nearsightedness or other health problems that may affect vision such as high blood pressure or diabetes may also need more frequent dilated eye exams as well.

We hope this answers all your questions about eye dilation and makes your next eye exam easy and worry-free! Once you have your prescription, browse hundreds of stylish, yet affordable frames on 39DollarGlasses.com to find your next perfect pair!