You and Your Big Eyes: Effects of Unnatural Eye Dilation

Dilation, otherwise known as the widening of the pupils of the eyes, is normal in conditions of low light to allow light to reach the retina, enabling the eyes to adjust and see clearly in dim environments. If the pupils are dilated due to an abnormal response, they may remain widened even in the presence of sunlight or intense light. Medically, this condition is known as mydriasis.

In a previous article, we discussed the causes of abnormally dilated pupils. Today, we will tackle the aftereffects of leaving them untreated.

  1. Cycloplegic Effects

Cycloplegic drugs are muscarinic receptor blockers. They paralyze the ciliary muscles of the eye, keeping the pupil wide open for longer periods. Atropine is an example of a cycloplegic drug that has long-lasting effects. Once atropine is administered, the pupil may stay dilated for up to two weeks, according to the Mayo Clinic. Eyes may begin watering or become red, and the eyelids may swell. Cycloplegics can cause a severe rise in intraocular pressure in people with glaucoma, which is fluid buildup in the iris. Cycloplegics should not be given to people with this condition as they cause a loss of accommodation in the eye, or the changing of the curvature of the lens to see objects in close proximity.

  1. Mydriatic Effects

Like any medication, dilating drops can cause minor to moderate side effects. Dilating drops stimulate contraction of the muscles that enlarge the pupil. In some cases, the eyes may experience stinging and burning after application. This effect only lasts for a minute or two, according to the Mayo Clinic. Drops that are strictly mydriatics with no cycloplegic drug added like phenylephrine, dilate the eye for several hours. The common side effects of pupil dilation are light sensitivity and blurred vision. Eye irritation and reddening, headache, and pain in the brow are also known side effects.

  1. Systemic Effects

Dilating drops can be absorbed systemically and cause side effects outside the eye. A person given such drops may experience a rise in blood pressure, along with headaches, dizziness, paleness, a sensation that the heart is pounding loudly, and an erratic heartbeat, according to the Mayo Clinic. Dry mouth and skin, thirst, and unusual tiredness may also occur.

What is a Dilated Eye Exam?

Common eye problems and diseases like retinopathy, glaucoma, and macular degeneration can develop as we age. Thus, all adults are recommended to get a dilated eye exam at least once every year.

A dilated eye exam involves widening the pupil using special eye drops, giving the ophthalmologist a better view of the structures inside the eye. The process is painless and well-tolerated by most people.

Let Our Doctors Assess Your Eyes

Annual eye examinations are a general rule of thumb to keep the eyes in the pink of health. Dilated eye exams are a thorough way for an ophthalmologist to assess the condition of your eyes. To prevent and treat diseases before they affect your vision, contact us today at 623-474-3937 to schedule an appointment with one of our reputable eye doctors.

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