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What Are Mydriatics?

The anatomy of the human eye includes the cornea, retina, lens, pupil, optic nerve, and more.
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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2014
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Mydriatics are a type of eye medication used to dilate the pupil. They are used during eye examinations and in the treatment of some eye disorders, such as cyclitis, uveitis, or iritis. The medication can also be used before eye surgery to help allow access to the lens, retina, or optic nerve. A mydriatic may also be used after eye surgery to reduce the formation of scar tissue on the eye.

There are two ways that mydriatics work to dilate the pupil in the eye. These medications can paralyze the sphincter muscle, which is the muscle of the iris that contracts the pupil. A mydriatic may also cause stimulation of the dilator muscle of the iris, causing the pupil to be enlarged.

Uses of mydriatics include assisting in examinations and surgery and fostering healing post-surgery. In some cases, mydriatic medications can be used as treatment methods. For example, a lazy eye can be treated by using a mydriatic medication in the healthy eye, which causes the other eye to work harder to see.

Side effects of mydriatics include a redness or flushing sensation in the face, sweating, and whitening on the eyelids and surrounding skin. People may also experience stinging after applying the medication. Some patients may experience irritability and eyelid twitching.

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There are also less common but serious side effects of mydriatics. These effects include confusion, high blood pressure or changes in heart rate, and an increase in pressure of the eye. Rash and itching in the skin around the eye are also less common side effects of mydriatic medications.

Changes in heart rate often occur in infants and children exposed to mydriatics. Heart rates can become abnormally high, leading to serious complications. If there is a history of any heart conditions, use of mydriatic medications should be carefully monitored. The increase in heart rate causes a decrease in blood pressure, which can be fatal for people with existing heart problems.

Severe confusion and disorientation is another serious side effect that should be watched for while mydriatics are being used. These medications are known to affect the central nervous system. Particularly with children, it is possible for mydriatic medications to cause confusion, seizures, and psychotic episodes. These and any other abnormal behaviors should be reported to the doctor right away. A doctor should also be immediately notified if trouble speaking or odd body movements occur, as these can be signs of serious interactions.

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