Eye Dilation – Why is it Important?

Yearly comprehensive eye exams are crucial to maintaining healthy vision. During a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor test for, diagnose and treat any underlying vision problems you may have. While you may not need to have your pupils dilated every year, it is important to have a better understanding of how it can help monitor your vision health.

Why is eye dilation necessary?

As part of a comprehensive eye exam, eye dilation allows your doctor to clearly see all the way into the back of your eye, helping to detect any abnormalities and treat or prevent future eye problems. Your doctor will use dilating drops to enlarge your pupil, so they do not get smaller when a light is shined on it. Once the dilating drops are applied, it takes about 20–30 minutes for your pupils to fully dilate. Your doctor will then examine the retina, optic nerve, blood vessels, and other parts of your eye that cannot otherwise be examined.

Eye dilation helps your doctor diagnose many eye diseases and conditions, including:


Glaucoma is an optic nerve disease that can result in serious impairment or loss of vision. Damage to the optic nerve can best be detected by a thorough examination through dilated pupils.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common eye disease that causes damage to the macula, a small area near the center of the retina. This condition is a leading cause of vision loss of people over 60, and like glaucoma, its early stages can only be detected by eye dilation.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that causes damage to the blood vessels of the retina. The longer someone has diabetes, and the less their blood sugars are controlled, the higher the possibility that a person will develop diabetic retinopathy.


A cataract is a condition caused by gradual clouding of the crystalline lens, usually caused by age.Eye doctors can detect cataracts early with eye dilation, allowing them to treat and prevent severe vision problems or blindness in the future.

Other Conditions

In addition, many other conditions can be detected through eye dilation such as melanoma of the eye (eye tumors), hypertension, and so on.

What do you need to be prepared for?

Eye dilation can cause some side effects such as blurry vision and light sensitivity. For most people, these side effects can last for 4-6 hours following the exam. While it is impossible for your eye doctor to tell you how long the side effects of dilation will last or the severity, it is important to take care of yourself and your eyes following your appointment.

  • Make sure you have a family member, friend, or taxi ready to bring you home following your eye dilation exam
  • Bring sunglasses to protect your eyes from light sensitivity
  • You may consider taking a few hours off work or taking a break from your daily to-dos to ensure you do not strain your eyes

How frequently should you have your eyes dilated?

If you are over 60, the National Eye Institute recommends having your eyes dilated yearly during your comprehensive eye exam. African-Americans are at a higher risk for glaucoma, and it is recommended to have yearly eye dilation starting at age 40. If you have diabetes, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends having your eyes dilated yearly no matter how old you are.

To learn more about eye dilation or to schedule a comprehensive eye exam, call ProMedica Physicians ProMedica Physicians Vision Associates at 419-578-2020.