Is it necessary to have my eyes dilated during every eye exam?

Answers from Dennis Robertson, M.D.

Whether eye dilation during an exam is necessary depends on the reason for your exam, your age, your overall health and your risk of eye diseases.

The eyedrops used for dilation cause your pupils to widen, allowing in more light and giving your doctor a better view of the back of your eye. Eye dilation assists your doctor in diagnosing common diseases and conditions, possibly at their earliest stages. They include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Macular degeneration
  • Retinal detachment
  • Glaucoma

Eye dilation also makes your vision blurry and your eyes more light sensitive, which, for a few hours, can affect your ability to drive or work. So if eye dilation is greatly inconvenient, ask your doctor about arranging another appointment. Alternatives to dilation are available, but they aren't as effective for allowing a careful examination of the back of your eye.

In determining whether eye dilation is necessary for you, your eye doctor may consider:

  • Your age. The risk of eye diseases increases with age. The National Institutes of Health recommends a yearly dilated eye exam if you're 60 or older.
  • Your eye health. Having a history of eye diseases that affect the back of the eye, such as retinal detachment, may increase your risk of future eye problems.
  • Your overall health. Certain diseases, such as diabetes, increase the risk of eye disease.
  • The reason you are seeking an eye evaluation. Certain symptoms may require a dilated examination to determine the cause. Some conditions requiring follow-up examinations may not need dilation at every visit unless there are new symptoms or concerns.
Nov. 25, 2014 See more Expert Answers