eye2eye interview with the Dilating Drops

Posted on May 3, 2011 · Posted in Eye Exam, Eye Health

A procedure commonly performed as part of a comprehensive eye examination is dilation of the patient’s eyes.  To accomplish this, drops are placed in the patient’s eyes which widen their pupils.  These drops have developed a bit of a “bad rap” over the years so we decided to sit down with ours to talk about their role in the eye exam.

FV:  Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today.

Drops:  Thank you for asking me.

FV:  Can you explain your role in the eye exam?

Drops:  Absolutely.  My job is to temporarily make the pupils bigger so that it is easier for the doctor to examine the inside of the eye.

FV:  How do bigger pupils make the examination of the inside of the eye easier?

Drops:   The larger the pupil is, the greater the area inside the eye that can be examined.  The best real-world comparison I can think of is looking into someone’s house through the keyhole vs. opening the door.  You might be able to see a few things straight ahead through that keyhole (undilated exam), but by opening the door (dilating the eye) you get a much better idea of what the inside of the house looks like.

Undilated vs. Dilated Examination

FV:  So I guess that makes you the key to the lock?

Drops:  Clever!

FV:  Thanks.  What is the advantage of a bigger area of view?

Drops:  A bigger view allows for a more detailed evaluation of areas that are particularly susceptible to disease.  For example, special lenses can be used to evaluate the optic nerve which is damaged in diseases like glaucoma.  The macula can be evaluated for age-related degeneration or signs of diabetes.  The blood vessels can also be examined for signs of diabetes and conditions like high cholesterol and high blood pressure.  The peripheral areas of the inside can be evaluated for holes or detachments.  The list is really long, but those are a few of the more common conditions.

FV:  With all the good things you do, why do people seem to dislike the idea of your part of the exam?  Do you cause pain?

Drops:  No pain at all.  I think, if people do dislike me, it is because some see me as a bit of an inconvenience.  I can make it harder to read for a few hours and I can make the world a bit brighter for a little while, but there are plenty of people that don’t notice much issue at all after I do my job.  I would hope that the slight temporary inconvenience I might cause for some is far outweighed by the benefits of a thorough, comprehensive evaluation of eye health.

FV:  Well said.  Can you elaborate on those benefits?

Drops:  As with most things in health care, the earlier the detection the easier the treatment usually is.  For example, early detection of glaucoma and treatment stops or slows progression of the disease.  Left untreated, the patient will generally not notice symptoms until it’s almost too late for treatment to be beneficial.  Same goes for the eye effects of diabetes and countless other conditions.

FV:  Great.  Thanks very much for your time.

Drops:  You are quite welcome.  Thanks for trying to get my side of the story out there.