Eye Dilation And Thinning Retinas

If you've been to an optometrist lately, you probably had to get your eyes dilated. At least, the option was presented to you, whether or not you took your doctor up on it. But is it really necessary to determine the health of your eye? And what did it mean when your optometrist told you your retina might be thinning and to "keep an eye on that"?

Is Digital Imaging as Good as Eye Dilation?

To you, it might seem that dilating pupils is a little extreme. Optometrists have digital imaging available to them, and can view the inside of your eye with that technology. But many optometrists believe that these technologies serve different purposes. Digital imaging should be used as documentation, while dilation is a method of diagnosis. Eye dilation is much more precise, because the eye doctor can see your inner eye – both the peripheries and the center – more clearly with dilation. However, if a problem is detected, digital imaging and laser scans are used to document and track changes in your eye over a period of time.

How Serious is Retinal Thinning?

While less than 10% of the population experiences retinal thinning, it can seem like an ominous possibility to you. As you age, your retina will naturally develop holes. For most people, this isn't vision threatening, it's just a natural process. The concern for your vision lies in the thinning and tearing of the retina.

Following eye dilation, if your optometrist has told you that your retina appears to be thinning, then you run the risk of losing your vision. Tears in the side part of your retina can lead to peripheral blindness while tears in the center lead to overall vision loss. Rest assured, however, that retinal thinning doesn't always result in tears and vision loss. When it does, a surgery to reattach your retina usually results in restored vision. It might put you out or work for a couple of months, but it shouldn't result in permanent damage.

How do I "Keep an Eye" on My Retina?

Optometrist humor such as "keep an eye on that" doesn't always clarify what steps you should take to maintain retinal health. And, unfortunately, there is little you can do to prevent retinal damage. However, if damage is caused by another health factor – such as diabetes or high cholesterol – keeping these under control will help maintain your eye health. If you participate in contact sports or work with power tools, always protect your eyes to prevent trauma from detaching your retina.

Other than that, the best thing you can do to "keep an eye" on your retina is to have routine checkups. Document any changes that occur in your inner eye. And, most importantly, know the symptoms of retinal detachment so you can get immediate attention.

What are the Symptoms of Retinal Detachment?

Some people describe the detachment of their retina like a curtain being closed over their eye. This could be gradual or sudden, but it will seem like someone has just shut the light out of your eye. Other times, you might see flashes of light or an increase in eye floaters (spots that move within your vision, an aura, or wiggly lines). If you experience any of these symptoms, you should schedule an emergency visit to your optometrist. Don't put off a visit until it is convenient, because you want to catch the tear before your retina completely detaches.

Eye dilation is a necessary part of an eye exam – it is used to diagnose possible eye problems before they become major ones. So next time your optometrist recommends it, take them up on a dilation.  Click here to learn more, or contact a local eye clinic.