What to avoid after eye dilation

closeup of a dilated eye

What shouldn't you do after you have had your eyes dilated?

Your vision will be blurred and more sensitive to blinding light from the dilating eye drops, so driving is one of the things you should avoid. Besides putting other drivers and yourself at risk, you can also risk causing permanent damage to your retinas from UV exposure.

For this reason, it's recommended that you ask a loved one or friend to drive you home if your eyes are dilated as part of your eye exam.

SEE RELATED: Dilated pupils: Causes and concerns

Eye dilation: What not to do after

Besides driving, other activities you should avoid having your eyes dilated include:

Don’t hang out in the sun: You should never look directly at the sun as it can damage your eyes. After dilation, this is even more important to remember. 

Typically, your pupils will retract to make UV damage less likely, but after a dilated eye exam, your eyes can’t enact this natural self-defense mechanism.

Don't stare at digital screens: On the spectrum of visible to invisible light, blue light (emitted by digital screens) is closest in severity to UV light. 

Even when your pupils are free to retract as needed, blue light can cause eye strain, but pupil dilation makes you susceptible to retinal injury. (Note: Because we don’t usually watch TV at close distances, it should be safe for you to watch your favorite shows after a dilated eye exam.)

Don’t try to read small fonts: After eye dilation, your vision will be blurry. While it is possible to read small text in a book or on your phone, the effect to see clearly at this time could cause eye strain, fatigue and headaches.

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How to make eye dilation go away faster

While special eye drops do exist that can reduce your dilation, they’re not recommended by eye doctors. The healthiest choice is to do what you can to make the time your pupils are dilated more manageable.

You can ease the discomfort of having your pupils dilated by:

  • Having a loved one drive you home after your appointment

  • Wearing sunglasses if you spend any time outside and on the ride home

  • Limiting your time in the sun as much as possible

  • Wearing blue-light protection glasses when looking at digital screens

  • Dimming the brightness of your digital screens as much as possible

  • Using reading glasses while your pupils are dilated

From the time your pupil dilation has peaked, it can take between four and six hours for your pupils to return to their normal size. You may even experience longer periods of pupil dilation depending on your age, eye color and prescription medications.

While eye dilation may seem like more trouble than it’s worth, this part of your eye exam is vital to getting a full understanding of the health of your eyes. It’s inconvenient, but after a few hours, life can resume as normal.

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