A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Seeing the benefits of dilated eye exams

Why dilate your eyes?

Your eye doctor dilates your pupils every time you visit and you ask yourself the question “why” every time.

Dilating pupils is the only way to catch certain types of eye diseases early, before there are warning signs.

“Looking through the pupil in an un-dilated eye is like looking through a key hole in a room and trying to see in,” said Dr. Brad Christopherson, a Marshfield Clinic optometrist.  “It is much easier to open the door to see everything and improves our chances of detecting the smallest defect or problem.”

Christopherson has detected small retinal tears or holes in people under the age of 20. Left untreated, these problems could have resulted in severe vision loss.

Young people still at risk

Most young people assume their eyes are healthy and their vision is in good shape. But visiting your eye care professional for a comprehensive dilated eye exam is the only way to be certain. You may also find your vision could be improved with glasses or contact lenses.

Chart showing differences in non-dilated vs dilated eyes

Before your exam, drops are placed in your eyes to dilate, or widen, the pupil. Once dilated, the doctor uses a special magnifying lens that provides a clear view of the back of the eye, including the retina, macula and optic nerve.

The exam can help detect problems, most notably:

  • Diabetic retinopathy, the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in the United States
  • Age-related macular degeneration, a common cause of vision loss and blindness in people over age 50
  • Glaucoma, a disease that damages the optic nerve that carries information from the eyes to the brain

How often should you see your eye doctor?

He recommends dilated exams every two years for healthy adults under age 40. For those over 40 with risk factors for vision loss, Christopherson recommends exams at least once a year.

To schedule an exam with a Marshfield Clinic vision professional, visit www.marshfieldclinic.org/appointments or call 1-866-520-2510.

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