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

Answer From Alaina L. Softing Hataye, O.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 eye drops 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 Eye Institute recommends a dilated eye exam once every one to two years if you're 60 or older.
  • Your ethnic background. People of certain ethnic backgrounds are at increased risk of some eye diseases. Black people and Hispanics, who are at increased risk of glaucoma, are advised to have a dilated eye exam every one to two years, starting at age 40.
  • 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.

With

Alaina L. Softing Hataye, O.D.

Dec. 31, 2019 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. Albinism
  2. Artificial tears: How to select eyedrops for dry eyes
  3. Blocked tear duct
  4. Bionic Eye Offers Hope of Restoring Vision
  5. Cataracts
  6. Collecting Pennies Through the Pain
  7. Convergence insufficiency
  8. Diabetic retinopathy
  9. Dizziness
  10. Dry eyes
  11. Macular degeneration, dry
  12. Ectropion
  13. Entropion
  14. Eye exam
  15. Laser retina scan
  16. Eye floaters
  17. Eye melanoma
  18. Eyestrain
  19. Farsightedness
  20. Fuchs' dystrophy
  21. Had an eye exam lately?
  22. Horner syndrome
  23. How can I reduce my risk of wet age-related macular degeneration?
  24. Iritis
  25. Keratitis
  26. Keratoconus
  27. Krabbe disease
  28. Lazy eye (amblyopia)
  29. Living better with vision loss
  30. Living with wet age-related macular degeneration
  31. Mayo Clinic Minute: What are eye floaters?
  32. Mayo Clinic Minute: What you need to know about dry macular degeneration
  33. Mayo Clinic Minute: What you need to know about wet macular degeneration
  34. Migraine with aura
  35. Multiple system atrophy (MSA)
  36. Nearsightedness
  37. Neurofibromatosis
  38. Noonan syndrome
  39. Optic neuritis
  40. Premature birth
  41. Prepare for your eye exam
  42. Presbyopia
  43. Presbyopia: Is it causing your blurred vision?
  44. Pseudotumor cerebri
  45. Retinoblastoma
  46. Rett syndrome
  47. Screen time making your eyes buggy?
  48. Screening for diabetic macular edema: How often?
  49. Sebaceous carcinoma
  50. Shaken baby syndrome
  51. Sjogren's syndrome
  52. Sjogren's syndrome: Can it cause recurrent UTIs?
  53. Stickler syndrome
  54. Subconjunctival hemorrhage (broken blood vessel in eye)
  55. Treatments for wet macular degeneration
  56. Uveitis
  57. Keratoconus
  58. Migraine aura
  59. Wet age-related macular degeneration: Get the support you need
  60. Macular degeneration, wet
  61. Wet age-related macular degeneration symptoms
  62. What is ROP and how is it treated?
  63. What is wet age-related macular degeneration?
  64. Wilson's disease