Dilated Retinal Exam

A dilated retinal exam is a test your optometrist may perform to inspect your eyes for signs of eye disease and other common vision problems. This safe, painless test allows your optometrist to better examine the structures of the eye including the lens, retina, optic nerve and blood vessels. It may be performed on patients of any age on a regular basis.   

The test is performed by placing eye drops in each eye which relax the iris muscle (the colour portion of the eye) causing it to increase or dilate in size. The medications used also relaxes the focusing muscle in the eye which may temporarily blur your vision and make you more light sensitive for about 4-6 hours.

Patients with diabetes should have a dilated retinal exam ever year

A dilated retinal exam is always performed in the case of reduced vision or sudden changes in your vision. It is also performed annually on patients with diabetes, cataracts (that prevent a clear view of the retina), glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, retinal degenerations (such as high nearsightedness or previous retinal tears and detachments) and patients with high blood pressure.

A dilated retinal exam may also be performed if your optometrist spots any vision problems that simply require further examination. It is often performed in combination with digital retinal photography and OCT retinal imaging to aid in the diagnosis and monitoring of eye conditions.

What you need to know about having your eyes dilated

  • The drops usually take 15-20 minutes to work after being administered
  • They usually last 4-6 hours, but can last up to 24 hours in some individuals
  • They may make you more light sensitive, we recommend that you bring sunglasses to your appointment.
  • They may impact both your near and far vision for 4-6 hours, but can last up to 24 hours in some individuals.
  • We recommend that everyone bring a designated driver to their appointment.
  • Dilated retinal exams are covered under Alberta Health Care when medically necessary. Otherwise standard professional fees apply.  

Cost: $65.00 or Covered by Alberta Health Care
Frequency: As required or recommended by your optometrist or as determined by visual symptoms