So what is an eye dilation anyways? When Dr. Abert and Dr. Pedroza look into your eyes with the biomicroscope, they carefully inspect the entire front half of your eyes including the conjunctiva (outermost skin layer of the eyes), cornea (the clear part of your eyes), and iris. To view anything past the iris can be a bit tricky because the iris contracts when the eye is hit with bright light, decreasing the pupil diameter, and decreasing any potential view of the posterior ocular structures. A dilated eye examination uses pharmacological drops to open the pupil and allow an unobscured view of the crystalline lens and retina.
Through dilated pupils, the peripheral retina can be viewed, and better views can be obtained of the optic nerve, macula, and intraocular blood vessels. The side effects of having a dilated exam are usually minimal. Common side effects include reduced near vision, blur, and light sensitivity lasting from 2-4 hours after the exam. Most patients are able to still drive home, though if you are not comfortable driving with dilated pupils, we recommend you bring a driver to your examination to drive you home.
A dilated eye examination is optional, though if your doctor recommends it, it is part of your comprehensive exam and doesn’t carry any added costs. Should you need a dilation mid-year, between annual comprehensive exams, due to injury, symptoms, or monitoring of ocular disease, the exam is considered a medical visit and can be billed to your health insurance.
The following groups of people should have their eyes dilated once per year: patients with high nearsightedness, diabetics (Type 1 or Type 2, all ages), patients with symptoms of flashes and/or floaters, patients with a history of severe ocular trauma, and patients that have been diagnosed with glaucoma, macular degeneration, or other retinal disease.