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By James Wymore, M.D.

Not everybody looks forward to a trip to the eye doctor. Patients often have to undergo eye dilation, which lengthens the time in the doctor’s office, makes the eyes sensitive to light and may blur reading vision. Can the eye doctor examine your eyes and test for glasses without dilation? The answer is not really and for good reasons.

Eye dilation is most common during the complete eye examination, either for a new patient or for a regular eye check. By widening the pupil with dilation, the internal ocular structures including the lens, vitreous, retina, choroid and optic nerve are more easily examined for not only eye diseases, but also for general health problems that can cause changes in the eyes.

John, a 65-year old retired Moline science teacher and Eye Surgeons Associates patient of almost 10 years, shares how having his eyes dilated during a routine annual eye exam was the first step in saving his life. Dr. Elshatory became concerned about John’s retina during his exam. He diagnosed John with carotid occlusive disease and quickly routed him to a vascular surgeon, as John’s condition made him a likely candidate for a stroke. After several doppler sonograms, doctors determined John had 99% blockage in his carotid artery.

“The doctor told me my blood was trickling through, just cell by cell,” said John. After more than a year after his initial diagnosis, John is feeling great and stays busy golfing, spending time with his grandkids and fishing. He’s so glad to still be fishing! “I tell everyone I can how great my experience was with Eye Surgeons and refer friends all the time,” John beams. ”Dr. Elshatory is a retina expert.”

The true need for glasses, technically called refractive error, can be determined through dilation as well. The human lenses’ ability to focus can mask the presence of significant farsightedness or cause nearsightedness to be overestimated. Dilation helps to uncover these problems.

Dilation along with cycloplegia, or paralysis of the ciliary muscle which controls focus, can also be therapeutic. The pain of corneal abrasions or inflammation will be relieved with cycloplegic drops. Inflammation intraocularly (iritis or uveitis) is benefited in two ways. Pain is decreased, and scarring of the iris to the eye lens is avoided.

Some eye visits don’t require dilation. Evaluation and treatment for eye infections like conjunctivitis, a follow-up intraocular pressure check for glaucoma, removing foreign bodies from the eye and treating ocular allergies are examples of some of those visits. These involve examination of the external portions of the eye and drops are not needed to open the pupil further.

BIO’s: Dr. Wymore, co-author, is a board-certified general ophthalmologist. He is a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Dr. Wymore practices at our offices in Rock Island and Silvis, Illinois.

Dr. Elshatory is a board certified and fellowship trained retina specialist. His specialty interests include the medical and surgical treatment of age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinal vascular disease, retinal detachment, macular holes, and macular pucker. Dr. Elshatory practices in Bettendorf, Iowa and Rock Island, Illinois.

The material contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider.

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