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Dilated Eye Exam

Topic Overview

A dilated eye exam lets your eye doctor see the back of your eye (retina). It's usually done as part of a regular eye exam.

What happens during the test?

Your doctor will use eyedrops to widen (dilate) your pupils. This makes it easier to see the back of the eye. Your doctor may also use eyedrops to numb the surface of your eyes. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to fully dilate the pupils.

The dilating eyedrops may make your eyes sting. They may also cause a medicine taste in your mouth.

When your pupils are dilated, your doctor will shine a bright light into your eyes and examine them.

Tell your doctor if you or anyone in your family has glaucoma and if you are allergic to any type of eyedrops.

What happens after the test?

Your vision will be blurry for several hours.

You will probably be able to go home or back to your usual activities right away. But your eyes will be sensitive, and your vision will be blurry. Protect your eyes from the sun by wearing sunglasses.

Don't drive for several hours after your eyes have been dilated.

Who should have this test?

This test is usually done as part of a regular eye exam. So if you have vision problems, you may get this test as part of your regular checkup with your eye doctor.

The test can also be used to find other problems, such as head injuries or brain tumors.

Everyone with diabetes should have regular dilated eye exams. Diabetes can lead to eye problems that cause vision loss or blindness. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you will have eye problems. By the time you notice any vision problems, your eyes may already be seriously damaged. A thorough exam can help detect symptoms early. Early treatment may help protect your vision.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
Last Revised January 9, 2013

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