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Is Dilation Necessary for an Eye Exam?
If you’ve been to the eye doctor, you’ve likely been asked if you want your eyes dilated. And then you pictured yourself getting colored eye drops and walking out of the doctor’s office in dark glasses. So maybe you said, “No, thank you.” But Ashley Huynh, OD, an optometrist at Kelsey-Seybold, provides compelling reasons for you to reconsider.
“Dilation allows for the evaluation and detection of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and glaucoma on the retina that cannot be seen when pupils are in their normal state,” she says.
While Dr. Huynh understands the apprehension patients may feel about having their eyes dilated because of stories they may have heard about not being able to see normally afterward, she offers an explanation that may make the experience clearer.
“When eye drops that enlarge the pupils are placed in the eyes, patients become sensitive to light and may experience blurry vision, especially up close, for a few hours,” she says. “Almost all my patients are able to drive themselves home, but if they feel uncomfortable, I advise they bring a friend to drive them.”
She adds that dilation is well worth the temporary inconvenience and advises that patients have their eyes dilated once a year during their annual vision exam.
“Some diseases like glaucoma can steal sight without signs or symptoms,” she explains. “It’s an insidious disease causing a gradual loss of peripheral vision without the patient being aware of it. I’ve had patients who’ve lost 75% of their sight without noticing it. And, sadly, the damage is irreversible."
Dr. Huynh knows this not only from her medical experience, but also from personal experience – her mother-in-law is blind in one eye because of undetected glaucoma.
“This happened before I met my husband; otherwise I would have gotten her eyes examined," she adds. "If it’s been a year or longer since your last checkup, I recommend you make an appointment right away. Vision is a precious gift. Just imagine the rest of your life without it.”