Eye dilation is a common part of an eye exam and it allows your doctor to get a good look at the back of your eyes. The dilation procedure uses eye drops that work to widen the pupil, allowing them to use a magnifying lens and look at your retina, optic nerve, blood vessels, etc. This helps with diagnosing and treating any developing eye diseases, such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, or cataracts, before they cause significant symptoms.
The exact duration of eye dilation varies by individual, but in general it will last about 4-6 hours. The specific drug your doctor uses will also influence how long the effects last. During this time your vision will be blurry and you may experience light sensitivity. It is important to arrange for a ride home from the eye doctor and to bring sunglasses to help reduce sensitivity.
Your doctor will advise you to avoid reading or driving for the first few hours after your eye exam. Your pupils will gradually return to normal over this period of time. Some people, especially those with lighter colored eyes, can experience a longer duration of dilation, lasting up to 24 hours after the eye exam.
It is recommended that you schedule your eye exam for the early afternoon if possible to give you enough time for the effects of eye dilation to wear off. It is also a good idea to bring a pair of sunglasses, as the light sensitivity will be more noticeable than when your pupils are dilated.