A dilated fundus exam is not always conducted during a routine eye exam; depending on the patient’s individual situation, the eye doctor will decide on whether or not it is necessary. Generally, it’s more commonly performed on patients with small pupils or those with ocular diseases such as diabetes, and people who are either at risk for or show signs of retinal detachment.
During a dilated fundus exam, drops are applied to the eye to enlarge the size of the pupils, the opening in the center of the iris (the colored part of the eye). This allows more light to enter the pupil and enables your doctor, using a special magnifying lens, to get a better look at the retina, macula, optic nerve, and the back of the eye.
The dilated fundus exam is useful for the detection of certain eye conditions. The most common diabetic eye disease (and the leading cause of blindness in North America) is diabetic retinopathy. Patients with this condition may show swelling or leaking of blood vessels in the retina during this exam. An abnormal growth of blood vessels may also be seen.
In age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the dilated fundus exam may show yellow deposits called drusen or clumps of pigment beneath the retina. An abnormal growth of blood vessels beneath the retina may also be seen, pointing to the appearance of this condition. The dilated eye exam is also important in the detection of glaucoma.Though this procedure is effective in evaluating ocular health in individuals with systemic and ocular diseases, even those with normal, healthy vision may benefit from it.
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