Why is Eye Dilation Needed at an Eye Exam?

Regular eye exams are crucial to your health. Properly treating vision problems can improve your quality of life in a variety of ways. Many people understand and acknowledge the importance of eye exams; however, they are less convinced of the importance of eye dilation.

Why is Eye Dilation Needed?

There are two main reasons why eye dilation is needed: it widens the pupils and makes it easier for your doctors to detect a variety of eye problems. Eye dilation allows your eye doctor to clearly see all the way into the back of your eye, helping him or her to detect any abnormalities and treat or prevent future eye problems.

During eye exams, doctors keep several factors in mind when deciding whether or not their patients need eye dilation, including previous exam history, age, and health.

- Previous Eye Exam History

If your previous eye exams with eye dilation have not yielded any unusual findings, you may not need to have your eyes dilated during your next examination. However, your first eye exam will almost certainly include eye dilation to act as a baseline for your overall eye health.

- Patient Age

Age affects the decision to dilate your eyes as well. Patients over 40 especially are at a greater risk for eye disease, making eye dilation more necessary.

- Patient Health

Both your eye health and your overall health contribute to whether or not you need eye dilation. If you have experienced eye diseases like retinal detachment, you are at a higher risk for future eye problems, so your doctor will likely want to dilate your eyes as a precautionary measure. Additionally, diseases like diabetes are known to increase one’s risk for eye diseases.

There are six things that eye doctors can discover from eye dilation:

1) Eye dilation can identify glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can lead to vision loss and eventually blindness by affecting the optic nerve. In its early stages, glaucoma can only be detected by eye dilation. When your eyes are dilated during an eye exam, your doctor will be able to detect changes to the shape and color of the optic nerve, which would be indicative of glaucoma.

2) Eye dilation can identify Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

This eye disease is characterized by yellow deposits or clumps of pigment beneath the retina. AMD is a common cause for vision loss and, like glaucoma, its earliest stages do not exhibit any symptoms.

3) Eye dilation can identify Hypertension

Eye dilation can detect more than just diseases in the eye. Hypertension puts strain on all the blood vessels in the body, including those in the eyes. Even if you are not yet showing other symptoms of hypertension, by dilating your eyes, your doctor will be able to see bleeding from the blood vessels in the eye, as well as areas of swelling that might be contributing to blurred vision.

4) Eye dilation can identify Eye Tumors

Eye tumors, including melanoma of the eye, can be detected in their early stages with eye dilation. While some eye tumors are benign, if ignored, they can eventually become more serious. As with many other illnesses, if caught early, your eye doctor can continue to observe eye tumors to see whether or not they are growing and treat them accordingly.

5) Eye dilation can identify Diabetes

Diabetes often causes damage to the nerves that allow the pupil to dilate and constrict. Eye dilation will help your doctor determine whether nerve damage indicative of diabetes is present. Regular eye dilation can also help prevent and treat diabetic retinopathy, which is the leading cause of blindness in the United States.

6) Eye dilation can identify Cataracts

Cataracts develop in the lens of the eye and present themselves as opaque clumps of tissue, leading to a variety of vision problems. Eye doctors can catch cataracts early with eye dilation, allowing them to treat them earlier and prevent serious vision problems or blindness in the future.

If you are currently wondering why eye dilation is part of your eye exam, keep the facts above in mind when you make your next appointment. At VSP, we value your vision health and want to help you live the healthiest, most fulfilling life possible. We encourage you find your local eye doctor and schedule your eye appointment today or, if you don’t have a VSP vision plan, learn more about our vision insurance offerings.

Disclaimer: Information received through VSP Vision Care's social media channels is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, medical recommendations, diagnosis, or treatment.  Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. 

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