Should you get your eyes dilated?

Should you get your eyes dilated?

Eye dilation is a common practice at the eye doctor. The process involves using special eye drops to enlarge your pupil, which in turn allows your doctor a better view into your eye and special insight into your vision health.

“Many parts of the eye can’t be seen without dilation,” said Dr. Mary Schroeder-Capelli, ophthalmologist and director of the ophthalmology and vision department at Aurora Health Center in Kenosha, WI. “Looking into a dilated eye helps us find disease in the eye. When the pupil is enlarged, it’s like looking through an open door instead of looking through a keyhole.”

Looking inside your eyes gives doctors a chance to check for eye disease, including diabetic eye disease, called diabetic retinopathy. Your eyes are the only place that a doctor can directly view your blood vessels. This allows a doctor to check for signs of damage or other issues with your blood vessels, which can be caused by diabetes, high blood pressure or other diseases.

For people with diabetes, high blood sugar levels can cause damage to blood vessels in the retina, eventually causing swelling and leaking of blood vessels or even closing of those vessels. Any of these can lead to serious symptoms including blindness.

“For many diseases, including diabetes, the impact to your vision doesn’t show up until the disease is advanced,” said Dr. Schroeder-Capelli. “This means that you often can’t tell there is a problem until it could permanently reduce your vision or even cause permanent blindness. That’s why it’s so important to have a dilated eye exam.”

Dilated eye exams can help identify problems early and allow you and your doctor to make a plan to treat your whole body, not just your eyes. Catching these conditions early can make all the difference in treating and preventing further impacts on your vision and overall health.

When you do get a dilated eye exam, it may take several hours for your eyes to return to normal. You should make plans to have someone else drive you home after your appointment, as it may not be safe for you to drive yourself. Wearing sunglasses can also help with sensitivity to light after your appointment.

Now is the perfect time to make an appointment with a primary care physician. Whether you live in Illinois or Wisconsin, it’s easy to find a doctor near you. 




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  1. I had an extreme event after an eye dilation. The next morning I woke up with Vertigo symptoms and threw up constantly for hours on end. I went into the ER via an ambulance and had all kinds of tests run without any final prognosis. I am 2 years from that event without any recurrence strongly believing that the Eye Doctor did me no favors that day.

  2. Dilation is incredibly important, even if you don’t have diabetes. I never realized how important, until I was diagnosed with a Uveal Melanoma, a rare cancerous tumor inside my eye. It could only be seen when my eyes were dilated.
    It seems like a hassle to get your eyes dilated, but the brief discomfort is much better than the consequences of not discovering a problem early.

  3. Great article, It is so important especially for our diabetic patients. But we often find things on our other patients like asymptomatic tumors , retinal tears , and blocked blood vessels which can be sight or even life threatening!

  4. Eye dilation can also detect lesions/freckles in the eye. I was diagnosed with Ocular Melanoma in 2020 as a result of eye dilation and a retinal scan. Ocular Melanoma is very rare, but as with all cancers early detection is key.

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About the Author

Ben Hoekstra
Ben Hoekstra

Ben Hoekstra is a public affairs coordinator with Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. He previously worked in marketing and PR for various Milwaukee nonprofits and received his master’s degree in Corporate Communications from Marquette University. He enjoys the outdoors, cooking, and all things Milwaukee.