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Why Do I Need to Get My Eyes Dilated?

Dilation is part of a thorough eye exam.

The view to the back of the eye is limited when the pupil is not dilated. When your pupil is small, an eye doctor can see your optic nerve and macula but the view is limited. In order to see the entire retina, the pupil must be dilated. This is achieved through the use of eye drops

During a dilated exam, your doctor can spot problems like a torn or detached retina or an eye tumor. They can also diagnose and monitor common eye diseases that can take away your sight:

  • check for myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Glaucoma
  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Cataract
  • peripherical retinal lesions
  • retinal detachment
  • eye tumors

How Long Does It Last?

Everyone’s eyes react differently to the dilation drops. It usually takes 15 to 30 minutes for your pupils to open completely. Most people are back to normal within about 4 to 6 hours. But for you, the effects could wear off more quickly, or they could last much longer.

Can I Drive?

Dilation doesn’t typically affect your distance vision  But because your pupils can’t control the amount of light going into your eyes, the glare outside may bother you. For some people, that makes it unsafe to drive. If you’ve never had your eyes dilated, get someone else to drive you home from your appointment. Once you’ve had it done, you’ll know whether dilation means you can’t drive after an exam. Whether or not you get behind the wheel, it’s a good idea to bring sunglasses with you so you can shield your eyes after the exam.

Can I Go Back To Work?

Dilating drops make it hard for your eyes to focus on things close to you. You probably won’t be able to read, use the computer, or do other tasks that require near vision after your appointment, unless you wear bifocals or use reading glasses. If you work outside, the bright light may bother you. It may be easier to make an appointment later in the day so you don’t have to go back to work.

How Often Do I Need It?

The National Eye Institute recommends everyone over 60 have a dilated exam once a year. If you’re African-American, you’re at higher risk for glaucoma, so the yearly recommendation starts at age 40. If you have diabete you should also have a dilated exam once a year no matter how old you are.

Dilation is often a normal part of an eye exam or people who wear glasses or contacts. But if you’re young and your eyes are healthy, you may not need it every time. Your doctor also may be able to use other methods to check your retina without dilating your eyes, but they may not work as well. See what your doctor recommends.

Many eye diseases are more common as you get older. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says everyone should get a baseline exam with dilation when they’re 40. That way, your doctor can track any changes that could signal a problem.

General Guidelines

  • Children should receive their first comprehensive eye examination before the age of 3, unless a specific condition or history of family childhood vision problems warrants an earlier examination.
  • Anyone with a history of visual problems should get routine preventive care.
  • People ages 20 to 30 should have an eye exam every two years, unless visual changes, pain, flashes of light, new floaters, injury, or tearing occurs. Then, immediate care is necessary.
  • Yearly exams become important in the late thirties, when changes in vision and focus along with eye diseases, are more likely to develop.

Factors Your Eye Doctor Considers When Determining Whether Eye Dilation Is Necessary:

  • Age. The risk of eye diseases increases with age—particularly over age 40.
  • Eye health. If you’ve experienced eye diseases that affect the back of the eye, such as retinal detachment, you may have an increased risk of future eye problems.
  • Overall health. Certain diseases, such as diabetes, increase the risk of eye disease.
  • Reason for the exam. Are you in good health, under 40 and wondering if you need vision correction? You may not need a dilated exam this time, but know that you should have one at least every few years and more frequently as you get older. If it’s your very first eye exam, it’s a good idea to go with dilation for a baseline exam. You can discuss this with your doctor.
  • If you have new, worrisome eye symptoms or vision problems, then eye dilation may be necessary to make a diagnosis.
  • Results of previous 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.


Experts say more than 90 percent of eye injuries can be prevented by simply taking a few precautions and wearing safety glasses

An estimated 11,100 fireworks-related injuries (and four non-occupational deaths) were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2016, with about 7,600 of them during a one-month study period of June 18 to July 18, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

About 700 of the injuries during that month were eye injuries.

The CPSC’s “2016 Fireworks Annual Report” also included these findings for the one-month period surrounding the 2016 July 4th holiday:

  • Males sustained 61 percent of fireworks-related injuries; females accounted for 39 percent.
  • An estimated 31 percent of the injuries occurred in children younger than age 15, and 39 percent occurred in kids age 15 to 19.
  • The 700 eye injuries were caused mostly by sparklers, bottle rockets and multiple-tube devices. The eye injuries were mostly contusions, lacerations and foreign bodies, but about 200 incidents involved burns as well.
  • For children under 5 years old, sparklers accounted for half of the total number of injuries, but novelty and multiple-tube device injuries were also significant.
  • The parts of the body most often injured by fireworks were: hands and fingers (33 percent); head, face and ears (28 percent); legs (18 percent); trunk/other (12 percent); eyes (9 percent); and arms (8 percent). About 69 percent of all the injuries were burns.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers these safety tips for preventing eye injuries from fireworks:

  • Never let children play with fireworks.
  • View fireworks from at least 500 feet away.
  • Only trained professionals should light fireworks.

Don’t touch any unexploded fireworks remains. Instead, notify the fire or police department.

What to do for a fireworks eye injury

If an eye injury from fireworks occurs, remember:

  • Seek medical attention immediately.
  • Do not rub your eyes.
  • Do not rinse your eyes.
  • Do not apply pressure.
  • Do not remove any objects that are stuck in the eye.
  • Do not apply ointments or take any blood-thinning pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen.




Eye Care During Summer

Smiling kids at the garden

Summer is the season of vacation, travel, fun…it’s also a season for a few eye problems such as:

  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye): As summer approaches, we see a rise in patients walking into OPD with a red eye. Soon, we see their family members and friends also coming in with the same problem.  The key to prevention here is good personal hygiene.
    Conjunctivitis is a contagious disease, meaning it spreads by means of touch… it can be direct or indirect, i.e. the same objects being touched by a person with the infection and then by a normal person. Contrary to popular belief, conjunctivitis does not spread by looking into the patient’s eyes.

    It is important to consult an Ophthalmologist since there can be several causes for the eye becoming red and one should avoid taking over-the-counter medication.

Following some simple measures may help to prevent the spread of the infection:

  1. Avoid crowded places
  2. Avoid sharing handkerchiefs, towels, napkins, bed sheets, pillow covers etc
  3. It is preferable to use tissue paper or cotton swabs to wipe the eyes and then discard them, instead of using a handkerchief
  4. Washing hands frequently, scrubbing clean


  • Eye allergy: In summer there is more dust, pollen and several other substances in the air, which can elicit eye allergy (allergens). Dust mites (small insects) thrive in numbers during summer. Their residue can spread in the air and elicit an allergic response in the eyes.
    The following tips may help:

    1. Avoid dusty environments
    2. When outdoors, using sunglasses acts as a physical barrier to prevent the entry of allergens into the eyes
    3. Frequent cleaning of the eyes with clean cold water will wash away the allergens and the chemical mediators that cause itching
    4. Keeping a cold compress on closed eyelids: A cooler temperature helps reduce itching by making chemical mediators that cause itching become less effective
    5. If a person is known to be vulnerable to eye allergy, he/ she should visit an ophthalmologist about 4-6 weeks before summer commences, so they can begin on medicines in advance to help reduce discomfort during the season
    6. Using a vacuum cleaner at home frequently can reduce a load of allergens
    7. It’s fun to swim during summer, but ensure that you wear protective glasses. Also be sure of the cleanliness and appropriate level of chlorination of water.


  • Dry eye: Due to hot and dry climate, the tear film on the eye gets evaporated faster, causing a burning sensation and irritation in the eyes. This becomes more prominent in patients who already have a problem of dry eye. Instillation of artificial lubricating eye drops, avoiding air conditioning, etc help reduce the discomfort.


  • UV protection: Heavy dose of ultraviolet rays during summer can be harmful to the eyes in several ways. These can lead to the formation of pterygium (a layer) on the surface of the eye, cataract, retina problems etc.
    The following tips may help:

    1. Avoid direct exposure to sunlight unless essential, during peak time of heat i.e. 10am to 2pm when the UV rays are at their strongest
    2. To use appropriate sunglasses which block UV rays:
      One should not get fooled by the color or the cost of the lenses, but look for a certificate that states that the lenses can block at least 98% of UV rays. Ideally, these glasses should wrap all around the eyes so that the sunlight does not reach the eyes from the sides
    3. Using a hat or an umbrella when outdoors prevents direct exposure of the eyes to sunlight