Do you have an upcoming eye exam? During an eye exam, your doctor may dilate your eyes to make sure they’re healthy. But eye dilations are known to affect your vision, so you may wonder if it’s safe for you to drive after an exam.
The answer depends on several factors such as the type of eye exam you get, your personal eye health and the current driving conditions.
To fully understand when you can or can’t drive after an eye exam, it is crucial to learn about eye exams, why they impact your vision and how your vision will change.
What Is an Eye Exam?
When you get an eye exam, your eye doctor will examine your entire eye and visual system, as well as your prescription if needed. Eye exams can help you if you’re having any vision or eye-related symptoms, but they are also an essential part of preventive health care.
Eye exams can detect eye diseases and as well as other health problems.
During an eye exam, your eye doctor will perform a series of tests to test your vision and eye health. Then, with their extensive training, experience, and professional judgment, they can interpret the results, outline treatment options and give you recommendations.
What Does an Eye Exam Include?
A typical eye exam includes:
- Consultation of your medical history and records. This allows your optometrist to compare your current results to past results and family history to assess your current and future eye health
- An evaluation of your current visual needs and demands
- Assessment relating to the health of the complete optical system, both inside and outside the eye, including eye coordination, depth perception, eye movement, overall vision and even neurological health
- Eye disorder screenings test for diseases such as glaucoma, retinal detachment and diabetic retinopathy
- An eye test to determine potential treatment options. To get a look at your whole eye, your eye doctor will usually dilate your pupils during this step
- Review of any concerns about your eye health. They will discuss treatment options with you as well
How Does an Eye Exam Affect Your Eyesight?
During an eye exam, your eye doctor will often dilate your eyes. When a doctor dilutes your eyes, it means that they use specific eye drops that open your pupils. This lets them get a look at your whole eye, including all the nerves and blood vessels at the back, to check for signs of diseases.
After your eye doctor dilates your pupils, your eyes won’t work as they usually would. Your eyes won’t block out light in bright areas as they normally would, which can affect your vision in a few different ways. Some of the effects you may experience after an eye dilation include:
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to bright lights and sunlight
- Difficulty focusing on nearby objects
How Long Does Eye Dilation Take to Wear Off?
While the dilated eye exam itself is over pretty quickly, the dilation will continue long after the procedure. Usually, your pupils will stay dilated for 4-6 hours but can sometimes last up to 24 hours, depending on individual factors.
The different factors that affect how long the eyes remain dilated include:
- Eye color: Research shows that people with lighter-colored eyes tend to experience the effects of eye dilation for longer
- Age: Younger People may experience the effects of dilation for a more extended period of time compared to older people
- Type of dilator: The type of eye drops that your doctor uses to dilate the pupils will affect how long the eyes remain dilated
Side Effects & Management
Eye dilation can cause several side effects. Once the dilation eye drops take effect, it is normal to experience slight stinging, blurred vision, difficulty focusing and sensitivity to light.
In rare cases, people can have more serious side effects or allergies to eye dilation drops. This could produce the following symptoms:
Managing Eye Exam Side Effects
People can take some steps to manage the effects of eye dilation. These include:
- Wear sunglasses
- Avoid close work such as reading and focusing on a computer screen
Can You Drive After an Eye Exam?
In most cases, the average patient will be able to drive immediately after an eye exam. Your vision is slightly blurred after dilation but it does not affect them much.
Of course, eye dilation affects every person differently. To decide whether or not you should drive after an eye exam there are a few factors you should consider. These include:
- If you’ve never had your pupils dilated, you can’t be sure how your eyes will react. So it’s probably best not to drive yourself home
- If you don’t have sunglasses it may not be a good idea to drive home, especially if you are normally sensitive to light
- If you have other health conditions, like glaucoma or cataracts, dilation will only make your vision worse
- If you’re usually not comfortable behind the wheel, then it’s probably not a good idea to drive while your eyes are dilated
- If the driving conditions are poor it is best to get someone else to pick you up
Although eye exams typically don’t have a significant effect on your eyesight, there are numerous factors that can make driving difficult afterwards.
You know yourself best, and should never drive if you feel anxious about it. If you have any questions or concerns about driving after an eye exam, contact your eye doctor.