Unlike a vision screening, a dilated exam is a complete and thorough examination of the inside of the eye. The dilated exam is a critical procedure used to identify eye diseases, vision problems, and risk factors, which is why Dr. Vivienne Velasco of iFocus Vision Center includes it as part of every comprehensive eye exam.

What Will Dr. Velasco Look For During a Dilated Eye Exam?

The purpose of dilation is to get a better view of the inner structures of the eye, such as the lens, vitreous, optic nerve, macula, blood vessels,  and retina. “I am looking for anything and everything,” Dr. Velasco explains, with a larger focus on four specific areas:

          Optic Nerve– “With the optic nerve I am looking for signs of neurological disease and glaucoma.”

          Blood Vessels– “With the blood vessels I’m looking for signs of hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol.”

          Macula– “With the macula, I’m looking for diseases such as macular degeneration or macular edema.”

          Retina– “With the retina, I’m looking for tumors, tears or holes in the tissue that can lead to vision loss.”

What Happens During Dilation?

When the procedure begins, Dr. Velasco will instill a few drops in the eye that will temporarily open up, or dilate, the pupil. “This way it stays big when I shine a light in the eye,” she says. With a wide-open pupil, Dr. Velasco is able to see all the way to the back of the eye, allowing her to accurately determine the health of the eye.

This video from the National Eye Institute offers a closer look at the dilation process.

Total dilation takes about 30 minutes, and the drops begin to wear off between 3-6 hours after the exam. That’s why Dr. Velasco will ensure your eyes are properly protected with sunglasses or shade when leaving the office.

Do I Need to Bring My Sunglasses to the Exam?

After a dilated exam, it is important to wear sunglasses since the pupil will not react to light in the manner that it normally does.

“You will be more light sensitive since the drops temporarily keep your pupil large and unable to constrict,” Dr. Velasco says.

To protect your vision, she’ll fit you with a shade over your eyes, or you can wear sunglasses when you leave the office.

How Often Do I Need a Dilated Exam?

Dr. Velasco ensures that dilation is part of every annual comprehensive eye exam at iFocus Vision Center. This is especially important for African-American patients, who are at increased risk for diseases such as glaucoma and diabetes; as well as older patients who are at risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. Patients with a history of high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, or a high prescription are also encouraged to have an annual dilated eye exam.

Dr. Velasco also urges parents to ensure their children undergo a dilated comprehensive eye exam, especially before a new school year begins, because dilation is not a part of in-school vision screenings, and therefore cannot be reliable when trying to determine the health of a child’s eye.

To schedule your comprehensive eye exam, contact Dr. Velasco at 702-473-5660 or book an appointment online via the iFocus Vision Center website.