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If you've been avoiding pupil dilation in past eye exams, you could be doing your eyes a sight-robbing disservice. While dilation can cause some annoyance and inconvenience for a short period during and immediately after the exam, its benefits vastly outweigh any minor negatives. By dilating your pupils during an eye exam, our Culpepper & King George optometrist at Eye Care of Virginia can get a far better look at the inside of your eye -- even to the point of taking photographs for future reference. This can prove critical for detecting diseases that might otherwise cause irreversible vision loss.
The retina and optic nerve are both crucial structures for eyesight, collecting incoming light signals and sending them to the brain to be interpreted as images. Unfortunately, these parts of the eye are prone to progressive damage from threats such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and retinal detachment. Even more unfortunately, because the retina extends across a large portion of the back of the eye, most of it cannot be viewed through a normal, non-dilated pupil. Undetected retinal problems in these hidden areas can continue to erode the eye's structures for years without giving you any clear warning signs -- and by the time you experience vision loss, the disease may be far advanced.
Pupil dilation is actually a simple, safe, harmless procedure. Special eye drops relax the muscles that control the pupil, causing it to dilate from 3 or 4 millimeters (in a well-lit room) to up to 8 millimeters in diameter. Our Culpepper & King George eye doctor can then use a brightly-lit magnifying tool to view the eye in a technique known as retinoscopy. The dilated pupil allows us to see not only the optic nerve and the retina from different angles, but it also permits a clear view of the blood vessels in the middle and front areas of the eye -- including blood vessels that have become damaged or overgrown due to macular degeneration. Better still, we can actually take photographs of these images to serve as a benchmark for following any changes that may occur from one eye exam to the next.
At some point during the eye exam, our Culpepper & King George optometrist will pass another device called a slit lamp over the front part of the eye to examine surface problems such as corneal scarring and cataract formation. But before we proceed with any of these steps, including dilation, we will conduct Snelling eye chart vision testing to catch any refractive errors that might require correction.
Apart from a brief stinging sensation, a few hours of light sensitivity and possibly a metallic taste in the mouth from the eye drops, a retinal exam under dilation offers nothing but positive gain. Do the right thing for your eyes by calling (650) 366-1273 to schedule a dilated eye exam from our Culpepper & King George optometrist!