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What is Eye Dilation and Why is it Important?

Dilation—or the eye drops that sting when put in and make you light sensitive and blurry for a few hours—are something many patients dislike about going to the eye doctor. Why do eye doctors want us to undergo this eye torcher?

 

What is Eye Dilation?

Dilation is typically performed by instilling a drop of Tropicamide into the eye. Tropicamide is a cholinergic antagonist, meaning it inhibits the muscarinic receptors of the sphincter muscle of the iris.

What does that even mean? To break it down to a little more understandable language, a cholinergic antagonist is a drug used to inhibit the parasympathetic nervous system—or the controler of the “rest and digest” system.

In the eye, the parasympathetic nervous system controls the iris sphincter muscle—a muscle in the eye that constricts the iris (the colored part of your eye) to make your pupils smaller to help view objects up close.

Therefore, Tropicamide (or any cholinergic antagonist) temporarily inhibits this function—meaning the pupil of the eye stays big instead of small.

 

Why is Eye Dilation Important?

An essential part of any eye exam is for your eye doctor to get a good view of the back structures of the eye—the retina—to get a good health check.

To see the back of the eye, your doctor needs to use a series of lenses to look through the pupil and into the retina. The smaller the pupil is, the more difficult it is to see back into the eye, and the more limited of a view your eye doctor will get.

Think about this as the pupil being a keyhole. When you peak through a keyhole you have a very small, limited view of what is on the other side. Dilation drops turn the “keyhole” into a window and thus provide a bigger area to view through.

 

But Why Exactly do Eye Doctors Care so much about the Retina?

Believe it or not, the retina is the only part of the body that doctors can physically look inside without surgery. Optometrists can see arteries and veins and any of the diseases that go along with these structures.

The retina also connects to the brain through the optic nerve head, allowing for even further evaluation of issues that occur in the central nervous system.

Besides being an important indicator for your overall systemic health, the retina is also the most important part of the eye. The retina is filled with special cells called photoreceptors. Photoreceptors are responsible for detecting light and transmitting it to the brain to be turned into images.

Without a healthy retina, you would not be able to see.

Some examples of things your eye doctor can see through carefully examining the retina include:

  • Retinal Detachments
  • Retinal Holes and Tears
  • Macular Edema (Swelling of the retina)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Variations of Brain Tumors
  • Diabetes
  • Diabetic Retinopathy
  • High Cholesterol
  • Cancer
  • Various Genetic Diseases
  • Glaucoma
  • Macular Degeneration
  • Medication Adverse Reactions
  • Many More!

Many eye doctors have actually been able to save patient’s lives through careful evaluation of the retina to warn patients of stroke or heart attack!

While your eye doctor may not be the doctor you think about first when you hear some of these diseases, optometrists play a crucial role in detecting these subtilities in the retina and referring you to the appropriate doctor for immediate care. All of this medical help is brought to you through a good dilated exam!

 

What if I Really Do Not Want My Eyes Dilated?

Fortunately with advancing technology there are now retinal cameras that allow doctors to look at the retina without dilation drops. One popular camera is called OptoMap, which can take a picture and allow your doctor to observe up to 200 degrees (out of 360 degrees) of the retina.

Retinal photos are a great tool, they are especially great for doctors to be able to compare photos from year to year to see if anything has changed or is progressing.

However, retinal photos are not a replacement for dilation. It is recommended that if you opt to do photos instead of dilation, that you be dilated the next year—or at least once every 3 years.

It is also always possible that your photo will reveal something your doctor wants to take a closer look at via dilation.

If you take a photo and your doctor asks you to be dilated at that same visit, you should always undergo dilation to allow them a better look.

 

Our eye doctors at Eye Theory in Houston, TX excel in the prescription of contact lenses, glasses and various eye diseases.  Call our optometrist at 832.831.7386 or schedule an appointment online if it is time for your eye exam with eye dilation.  Our eye doctor, Dr. Jonathan Tsao, provides the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in the Midtown, Downtown, Museum District, Montrose, East Downtown, and Southside Commons (Southside Place) vicinities of Houston, Texas.

 

When Should My Child Get an Eye Exam?

There are many recommended health care appointments for children, and a comprehensive eye examination with an eye doctor is an important part of these. It may be confusing as to when you should bring your child for an eye examination and what can be done at each age.

This article will explore expert recommended guidelines for children’s eye examination intervals and what to expect from these appointments. In addition, the information here may be different if our optometrist finds certain conditions that they want to watch more closely.

0 – 2 Years: One Eye Examination Between 6 – 12 Months of Age

Although young and unable to do a typical eye examination, infants are able to have their eyes examined for various entities that can affect their development. After birth, hospital staff check for basic eye functioning and any noticeable diseases, like infections or the media of the eyes not being clear.

Our optometrist can check the eyes again between 6 – 12 months of age, where they are doing simple objective tests to check again for opacities in the eyes, glasses prescriptions that are outside of normal levels and can impact development, eye turns that require prompt treatment, etc.

These are short appointments that can do a great deal for a child if an issue is found.

 

3 – 5 Years: At Least One Eye Exam Between 3 – 5 Years of Age

As the child grows older, a more thorough eye examination is possible that can more precisely determine variables like the glasses prescription, which can be increasingly important as the child begins school.

This can be quite important as changes in the eyes that are not likely to be noticed by parents, like different refractive errors between the two eyes, can lead to amblyopia, or “lazy eye.” Amblyopia results when an eye does not have a clear image during the childhood years until age 9, causing the brain to not develop proper connections to that eye.

If the problem is corrected before age 9, proper function can develop, but if correction occurs afterwards, then there may be residual lack of vision in that eye.

 

6 – 18 Years: Once Before First Grade Then Annually Thereafter

As kids grow older into school, sports, and other activities, closely looking after their vision remains important. Even once we are beyond the ages where amblyopia could be a problem, optional correction of refractive error is important to optimize learning.

Treatment of errors in how the eyes focus, and how they work and move together, are also important for school and, especially, homework. Contact lenses may become important for sports and other extracurriculars like performances.

If a child is nearsighted, methods exist to reduce the rate that their prescription grows, leading to a smaller prescription overall when they finish growing.

Parents sometimes believe that if there is an issue with their child’s vision, they will be able to see it themselves, and put off routine eye care for their kids.

On the other hand, when an issue is found in an eye examination that was not previously known about, some parents blame themselves for not bringing their children in sooner. The best way to avoid this feeling, and to maintain the eye health of our kids, is to just simply get their eyes examined at proper intervals.

 

Our eye doctors at Eye Theory in Houston, TX excel in the prescription of contact lenses, glasses and various eye diseases.  Call our optometrist at 832.831.7386 or schedule an appointment online if you would like to set up an eye exam for your child.  Our eye doctor, Dr. Jonathan Tsao, provides the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in the Midtown, Downtown, Museum District, Montrose, East Downtown, and Southside Commons (Southside Place) vicinities of Houston, Texas.