The importance of dilation for children

Dilation is a crucial part in any eye exam. This is more important in children as their eyes are developing. To understand why dilation is so important, we first must become familiar with the function of the eye’s lens. The lens of the eye flexes, which allows us to focus on objects at various ranges. Using a machine called an auto-refractor, the doctor can obtain values that show an individual’s refractive error. Refractive error is a result of the eye’s inability to focus clearly on objects that are either far away or close-up. This is associated with a prescription that can be put into glasses or contact lenses that can aid in vision when used. Though a refraction will fine-tune the prescription, the auto-refractor’s readings give a good starting point for the doctor and technician. To ensure that the auto-refractor’s measurements are accurate, dilation is necessary to relax the muscles that allow the lens to flex. Patient’s aged 16 or younger accommodate very easily. Accommodating occurs when the lens flexes to focus. The auto-refractor requires the lens to be relaxed, and this is nearly impossible when testing a child that is not dilated. In addition to acquiring accurate refractive error measurements, a dilated exam is also important to ensure eye health. The pupil is like a window. When pupils are dilated, they allow the doctor to look inside the eye and ensure that all parts are healthy. If there are medical diagnoses after the exam, the doctor will be able to monitor the patient accordingly. This is a good practice to implement as children’s eyes are developing, as well as into adulthood as check-ups.

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