Have you ever had your eyes dilated?
Have you ever wondered why your eye doctor dilates your eyes? Dilation is the process of instilling one or two medical drops into the eye. These drops paralyze the muscles that allow the eye to focus and opens up the iris (the colored part of the eye). It is important for your eye doctor to dilate your eyes because dilation allows the doctor to get a 3D view of the structures inside the back of the eye. While the doctor is looking at the structures inside the back of the eye, they are able to see any bleeding, changes to your blood vessels, growths under the retina, evaluate the optic nerve for various diseases, and look closely at the macula (the area of the eye which gives you your crisp, clear vision). There are some eye diseases that do not affect vision until it is too late, but dilation allows the doctor to catch and manage disease early.
Most children have very strong focusing muscles and are able to mask or hide their true prescription. When dilation drops are used with children, their focusing muscles are paralyzed which allows the doctor to measure the full amount of prescription present. If the child has a large prescription that their eye muscles are able to focus through, this means the child is doing more work to keep images single and clear which can lead to eye strain, fatigue, double vision, and inattention during class.
Inflammation can also occur inside of the eye. Inflammatory cells are released from the blood vessels inside the iris. This inflammation can cause pain, discomfort, irritation, and light sensitivity for the patient. When dilating drops are used, this paralyzes the muscles and acts like a splint to a hurt and inflamed muscle. This allows the inflammation to be reduced and helps the patient to feel better.
Dilation often times gets a bad rap, however, it is very important for several reasons. Luckily the inability to focus up close and the light sensitivity experienced from your pupil being so big only lasts about 2-4 hours!