Animation: Dilated Eye Exam
The Comprehensive Dilated Eye Exam: Opening the Door to Preventing Blindness During a comprehensive dilated eye exam, the patient receives special eye drops that dilate the pupils. The pupils open wide allowing the doctor to see the back of the eye clearly. With a better view of the back of the eye, the doctor can look for signs of the common eye diseases that can lead to blindness: glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration.
When eyes are dilated, the doctor can clearly see the retina, optic nerve and the macula. This is the optic nerve. The doctor is looking for early signs of glaucoma. This patient's optic nerve is healthy, but here's what it would look like if it showed signs of glaucoma.
The doctor will see changes in the shape or color of the optic nerve. The doctor may also see what is called cupping of the optic disk. Glaucoma is most common in African Americans over the age of 40; people over 60, and in people with a family history of glaucoma. In addition to the optic nerve, the doctor can also clearly see the retina at the back of the eye.
The doctor might see signs of diabetic retinopathy. Early diabetic retinopathy starts with small red dots called micro aneurysms and can progress to leaking blood vessels causing thickening of the retina and blurring of vision or new blood vessel growth that can bleed and cause blindness. If you have diabetes, you are at risk for diabetic retinopathy. While still examining the retina, the doctor can also look for signs of age-related macular degeneration or AMD. If this patient had AMD, the doctor would see yellow spots beneath the retina called drusen or dark clumps of pigment. AMD is the main cause of visual impairment and blindness in older americans. Dilation enables doctors to get a better view of the back of the eye which allows them to determine whether there are early symptoms of disease. But it's important to know that all people older than 60 need a comprehensive dilated eye exam each year and should inform their doctor right away if they begin to have problems with their sight.
People at higher risk may need to have a dilated eye exam more often. Risk factors including race, age and family history are all important to determine how often patients should receive a comprehensive dilated eye exam. To learn more about a comprehensive dilated eye exams, common vision problems and eye disease, visit:.
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