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.
About the Author
Ben Hoekstra is a public affairs coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health. 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.