Besides the air puff in the eye, the number one complaint about getting an eye exam is having to be dilated. Patients complain, and rightfully so, about the sensitivity to light and the blurry vision that sometimes accompany the dilating drops.
But the importance of dilating the eyes far outweighs the temporary side effects. Trying to look into someone’s undilated eyes for possible vision-threatening problems is like trying to look into a room through a keyhole. If you open the door of the room, dilate, you can see the entire picture. Retina hemorrhages from diabetes or high blood pressure, retina detachments, ocular tumors, glaucoma and macular degeneration can all be found early with a dilated retina exam.
To be completely clear, there is no equal alternative to dilation. There are retina imaging devices available that can greatly improve the retina view with an undilated pupil, but they do not provide the same quality evaluation. That being said, combining the retina imaging device with a dilated exam can provide a great view of the retina, consistent with medical standards of care. Retina imaging devices and retina cameras alone don’t meet the standards of care for proper retina examination, and don’t be fooled if someone says otherwise.
There are drops that can be placed in the eyes by the optometrist that reverses the effects of dilation. Be sure to ask about these drops since they do allow you to resume normal activities much faster. And remember that the slight inconvenience of having your eyes dilated is a small price to pay to ensure clear and healthy eyes.