Skip to main content
Home » What’s New » Why and When is a Dilated Eye Exams Important?

Why and When is a Dilated Eye Exams Important?

eye exam dilated 640x350.jpg

Fortunately, in our office we have the Optomap Retinal Camera that enables us to have a wide view of the retina.  At times, we may need to dilate the pupils to have a direct view of the retina if the photo reveals suspicious findings that require further investigation and a direct view of the retina.  This may be due to diabetes, a nevus, or other findings in the retina.

like a nuisance. But when you consider the benefits of a dilated eye exam, the temporary blurred vision and sensitivity to light that typically follow are definitely worth it.  

What is a Dilated Fundus Examination?   

As stated above, the Optomap takes a picture of the retina, the back part of the eye).  That enables to see far more to the sides than any other instrument We then look directly into the eye through the pupil, the black part in the center of the iris (the color part).  The pupil is actually a window that controls the amount of light that enters the retina.  Normally, the pupil is wide to allow the most light in.  When there is too much light, the pupil becomes smaller, to limit the amount of light that comes in.  When we use the instrument to look into the eye, the pupil naturally becomes smaller and it becomes more difficult to see the that various structures within the eye. 

When we Dilate the pupil, that “window” stays open to enable us to see parts of the eye we would not otherwise see.  We use special eye drop medication to open the pupil.  We can then see parts within the retina that are not otherwise visible: blood vessels, retina, optic nerve, and macula. 

Dilating the eyes makes it easier for your optometrist to detect the following conditions and diseases: 

  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma 
  • Diabetic Retinopathy
  • Macular Degeneration
  • Retinal Tumors, Retinal Detachment, or Retinal Tears
  • Eye Floaters

Many of these conditions can develop without noticeable symptoms.  The idea is to prevent vision loss and to identify problems when they can more easily be treated.

The Dilation Process

First we check your visual acuity.  We then insert the eye drop medication to dilate the pupil. Typically, the pupils dilate within about 15-20 minutes.  The pupils usually remain dilated for 4-6 hours, and during this time you may be sensitive to light because since pupils are now larger, they allow more light to enter. That is why you may want to bring someone with you to drive.  Some people use their sunglasses until their eyes return to normal.  We will give you dark glasses that will make it easier for you to function.

It may be difficult to read or work on computer when your eyes are dilated, and your vision may be blurred.

Dilated Eye Examinations are an important part of keeping your eyes healthy. To schedule your comprehensive eye exam, call Family Eye Care in Old Bridge today!


#1: At what age should one have a dilated eye examination? 

There is no specific age that you need to have your eyes dilated,  In our office, using the Optomap, we can usually obtain a very clear, wide, and detailed view of the retina.  At times, further investigation is needed. 

#2: Will I be able to return to work after a dilated eye examination? 

Each person reacts differently.  If your job requires you to focus on small print or detail, it may be challenging. Typing and writing may also be difficult with dilated pupils. Plan on doing activities that are less visually demanding for those few hours.