Vision usually returns to normal within an hour, but there is no set amount of time a person should wait before driving after eye dilation. The drops used by doctors typically last 4 to 6 hours, or sometimes longer. This means that the pupils stay wide open and cannot block light in bright areas as they normally would, causing glare and making vision blurry. Some people feel comfortable enough to drive right after an eye exam, but the eyes cannot adapt to control the amount of light that enters them after dilation.
Glare from light can irritate the eyes, causing itching which usually occurs when eye dilation drops come into contact with the eyes. It is best to arrange for a friend or family member to drive you home after the eye exam. The effects of eye dilation are inconvenient at best, so it is important to treat your eyes properly in the hours after the exam. In very rare cases, a person may experience an allergic reaction to eye dilating drops, which can cause eye redness and swelling.
Eye dilation can be performed as part of a complete eye exam or to detect an acute injury, such as retinal detachment. How long your eyes stay dilated depends on you and how you respond to the eye drops your doctor uses. If you have any discomfort or visual problems, contact your optometrist to schedule an appointment for an eye exam. The effects usually last longer in people with lighter colored eyes and in children who require higher doses of eye dilating drops.
Whenever possible, people should arrange for a friend or family member to drive them home after the eye exam. This takes the stress out of traveling after an eye exam and helps ensure your eye health and comfort.