The Purpose of a Dilated Eye Exam

The Purpose of a Dilated Eye Exam | Stuart P. Sondheimer, MDAs part of a regular eye exam, a dilated eye exam allows your doctor to see the details of the back of your eye, otherwise known as the retina. This test is a valuable tool in determining the overall health of your eyes and can even uncover problems like brain tumors.

What happens during and after the exam?

During a dilated eye exam, eye drops are inserted to dilate (or widen) your pupils, making the back of your eye simple to see. In some cases, eye drops may be used to numb the eye surface. It normally takes up to 15-20 minutes for the pupils to be wide enough for your doctor to do the exam. These eye drops have a slight sting and occasionally cause a medicine like taste in the mouth. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have a family history of glaucoma or if you have ever had an allergic reaction to eye drops.

After the pupils are fully dilated, your doctor will use a bright light to examine your eyes. Here’s what your doctor is looking at:

  1. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): If your doctor sees pigmentation or clumping below the retina, this may be a sign of AMD. Yellow deposits near the retina are also symptoms of this.
  2. Optic nerve fibers: Dilation enables your doctor to survey the features of optic nerve fibers. Color and shape are considered along with how the nerves intersect between the brain and the eyes.
  3. Diabetic retinopathy: the signs of diabetic retinopathy include odd blood vessel growth, or blood vessel leakage into the retina.  If left unattended, severe vision problems can result.

It is wise to have someone drive you home after a dilated eye exam. Your eyes will be blurry for several hours, and you will need to use sunglasses to protect your eyes, as they will be overly sensitive.

Who needs a dilated eye exam?

A dilated eye exam is usually administered during a regular eye check up. The exam is also helpful in detecting issues beyond vision problems like brain tumors or head injuries. Since diabetes contributes to eye problems like blindness, those with diabetes should get dilated eye exams often. Regular eye exams can help apprehend any vision problems and will allow your doctor to provide immediate treatment.

To schedule your eye exam with Dr. Stuart Sondheimer, call us today at 847-677-2794 (Skokie, IL), 847-677-2794 (Deerfield, IL), or 847-696-7643 (Park Ridge, IL). Let us assist you in maintaining healthy eyesight.


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As the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic and its impact continues to evolve, we remain focused on the health and safety of our patients, employees and our fellow community members. One main goal throughout this crisis is to provide the safest environment for everyone.

In response to the state of emergency declared at the federal level and at the recommendation of the Center for Disease Control and the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Stuart P. Sondheimer, M.D., S.C, will be only seeing urgent and post-surgical patients, until further notice.

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