What is cycloplegia?

How does our orthoptist and ophthalmologist team effectively diagnose your eye pathologies?

By carrying out an eye exam under cycloplegia with eye drops (painless) instilled in each eye!

But how exactly does it work? When is it recommended? What ophthalmological examinations are involved?

Keep reading to learn more about cycloplegia!

How does cycloplegia work?

Cycloplegia is an eye condition characterized by the temporary paralysis of the ciliary muscles that control the pupil, resulting in significant dilation of the eye.

This paralysis is usually caused by the administration of eye drops containing cycloplegic agents, such as atropine or scopolamine.

Cycloplegia is often used during eye exams to dilate the pupil and allow better access to the entire retina and other eye structures.


When the pupil is dilated, it is easier for Dr. Stephanie Zwillinger, or our COP9 orthoptists, to examine the retina, macula and optic nerve for any abnormalities or pathology.

When is cycloplegia recommended?

This can be particularly useful in screening for eye diseases such as: 

  • diabetic retinopathy;
  • age-related macular degeneration (AMD);
  • glaucoma;
  • retinal detachment


Cycloplegia can also be used in eye surgery, such as cataract surgery. It improves the visibility of the ophthalmic surgeon and facilitates surgical intervention.

It is used in ophthalmological monitoring to monitor the progression of certain ocular pathologies.

These eye drops play a crucial role in the medical treatment of vision disorders, such as myopia, presbyopia, astigmatism and hyperopia.

What are the side effects of cycloplegia?

It is important to note that cycloplegia can cause temporary side effects such as:

  • blurred near vision;

  • double vision (diplopia);

  • increased sensitivity to light;

  • difficulty accommodating objects at different distances. 

These side effects usually disappear
after a few hours when the effect of the eye drops wears off.

In case of cycloplegia, it is recommended to avoid driving or performing tasks that require precise vision, as pupil dilation can affect visual acuity, binocular (from both eyes) vision, and perception of colors.

It is also advised to wear sunglasses to protect the eyes from light sensitivity.

What are the ophthalmological examinations with cycloplegia?

In addition, cycloplegia is essential for visual assessment and fundus examination.

Practitioners use this technique to assess eye health, corneal surface, eye tension, eyeball, and visual field.

It helps detect eye pathologies, such as retinitis pigmentosa, and prevent eye fatigue.

A complete ophthalmologic examination, including cycloplegia, is crucial for anyone with a history of vision problems or symptoms of intraocular hypertension.

Cycloplegia in cases of ophthalmological emergencies

In the event of ophthalmological emergencies, cycloplegia may be necessary for a thorough examination in the event of sudden loss of vision, for example.

It allows the ophthalmologist to urgently screen each eye and intervene in time to avoid any complications linked to ocular tension or the cornea.

Following the ophthalmological examination, a medical intervention or surgical treatment is implemented, as well as a subsequent appointment to monitor the health of the patient’s eyes.


In any case, making an appointment with an ophthalmologist for a regular vision examination or in the event of symptoms of visual fatigue, headaches, blurriness, diplopia or any other vision disorder is strongly recommended.

In conclusion

Cycloplegia is a valuable tool used in ophthalmology to dilate the pupil and facilitate eye examinations as well as surgical procedures.

Although this condition may cause temporary effects on vision, it remains an essential component in the diagnosis and treatment of eye disorders.


It is therefore important to consult an ophthalmologist and follow his recommendations when cycloplegia is prescribed for eye health assessment.

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