Healthy Eyes

Comprehensive Dilated Eye Exam

Having a comprehensive dilated eye exam is one of the best things you can do to make sure that you're seeing the best you can and that you're keeping your eyes healthy. Many eye diseases often have no warning signs. A dilated eye exam is the only way to detect these diseases in their early stages. Early detection and treatment can help protect your vision. Even if you are not experiencing vision problems, you should still get examined.

If You Are 60 or Older

If you are age 60 or older, you should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. If you are at increased risk for or have any age-related eye disease, you may need to see your eye care professional more often.

This exam may not be part of an eye exam for new glasses or contacts. So be sure to ask your eye care professional about getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam.

What To Expect During a Comprehensive Dilated Eye Exam

During a comprehensive dilated eye exam, your eye care professional places drops in your eyes to dilate, or widen, the pupil to allow more light to enter the eye the same way an open door lets more light into a dark room. This allows your eye care professional to see the back of your eye, called the retina, and examine your eyes thoroughly. After examination, your close-up vision may be blurry for several hours and you might want to avoid driving, operating any machinery, or doing heavy lifting.

A comprehensive dilated eye exam consists of four types of tests.

  1. Dilation. During dilation, drops are placed in your eyes to dilate or widen the pupils. Using a special magnifying glass, your eye care professional examines the retina to look for any signs of damage or disease, such as diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration. Your eye care professional then exams your optic nerve for any signs of damage
  2. Tonometry. Tonometry measures eye pressure. Your eye care professional may direct a quick puff of air into the eye, or gently apply a pressure sensitive tip near or against the eye. Numbing drops may be applied to your eye for this test. Knowing your eye pressure helps your eye care professional assess whether you are at risk for glaucoma.
  3. Visual Field Test. A visual field test measures your side (peripheral) vision. During the test, while looking straight ahead, you will be asked to respond every time you see a light. This helps your eye care professional determine if you have lost your side (peripheral) vision, a possible sign of glaucoma.
  4. Visual Acuity Test. A visual acuity test measures how well you see at various distances. Your eye care professional will ask you to look at an eye chart. You will then be asked to cover one eye while you read the smallest letters you see on the chart. Visual acuity problems can often be corrected with eye glasses or contact lenses.