Most of the time it’s safe to dilate the eye. Assessment of how safe is based on clinical judgment of the patient plus an exam to determine, for instance, how narrow the anterior chamber is.
It’s safe to dilate only one eye (assuming it’s safe in general for that individual).
Occasionally dilating an eye is associated with bad consequences such as the precipation of acute glaucoma, which can affect vision permanently.
I cannot give advice on where to find mydriatics for recreational purposes.
Ah, finally, a use for my normally-useless knowledge of certain ophthalmic drugs!
What you would want is a drug called tropicamide. It’s only available by prescription, and as far as I’m aware, is really only ever used for eye exams and apparently some post-surgical uses. I seriously doubt that you could get anyone to write you a prescription for it: I’ve been told it’s a perfectly safe drug, but I don’t believe most doctors will prescribe drugs for recreational purposes.
I imagine that only dilating one eye could give someone a headache from screwy visual input.
Fun fact: Another drug that has the same effects is atropine, which is basically an extract from Deadly Nightshade. It also (unsurprisingly) burns like hell, and the small dose used for an eye exam can have lingering effects for a solid day or so. I know this because the pediatric ophthalmologist I saw growing up was (apparently) a sadist.
I seem to remember the experience of having my eyes dilated artificially as being somewhat disorienting - things are very bright, and somewhat fuzzy/haloed. I think it screwed with my balance a little too.
On a slightly related note - I just came to the realization recently that a lot of the people wearing sunglasses when it isn’t particularly bright out are probably doing so not to look cool, but to hide their eyes, being either bloodshot, or dilated from partaking in whatever. Which got me to wondering - I know there are eyedrops to relieve bloodshot, but are their eyedrops to relieve over dilation? I’m guessing there isn’t, or else my eye doctor would have undialated my eyes after he was done examining them instead of making me go through the rest of the day toughing it out. Confirm or deny?
Normally in our ophthalmology department, we give a numbing drop like proparacaine to reduce the burning sensation from the dilation drops (tropicamide and phenylephrine, used in combination). The unfortunate part is that proparacaine also burns, just less than the dilation drops do.
I tend to help out our techs by offering my eyes as tests, and I’ve had one eye dilated before as well as both. I’ve never heard of any real issues, assuming normally healthy eyes, of dilating only one eye. I will admit that it is distracting to have one eye dilated, though, and some may find it more uncomfortable than others.
As stated previously, this is something obtained from an ophthalmic office and I do not know if it or anything similar can be purchased over-the-counter.
jack, one of the ophthalmologists I work for said they tested ‘anti-dilation’ drops but the drops were found to only affect dilation time by around 20 minutes, which was considered unacceptably short. Also, “get the red out” over-the-counter drops are disliked by most eye doctors I’ve talked to as they have a “rebound” effect and are merely cosmetic in effect.
Finally, not only do some of us suffer when trying to peer in the direction of bright light, but last I’d read, UV-blocking sunglasses are recommended to possibly help prevent/delay cataract formation.
Yeah, the guy I saw once I ‘aged out’ of the pediatric guy’s care* used a cocktail of stuff, which still burned slightly, but was much more tolerable. I could be misremembering, but I seem to recall getting just one burny, burny drop per eye. Once every six months for years. Ugh.
I was also amazed the first time the dilation wore off completely within a few hours - my parents and teachers would never believe that my eyes were still all funny the next morning.
*Technically the insurance company stopped covering him 100% because they realized it was no longer post-surgical care 10 years after the surgery, but that’s another story.
If the pediatric ophthalmologist used atropine that does sound pretty rough, as that stuff lasts a really long time. There’s also homatropine which doesn’t last as long as atropine (but IIRC longer than tropicamide/phenylephrine), and in fact is used as a treatment for certain ocular problems partially because of its dilation effect. My husband was given it when he had a corneal infection - in addition to topical antibiotics - as it would keep his eye from trying to constantly focus, which was an additional irritant at the time.
I suspect the ‘cocktail’ was what we use or similar; I end up giving 3 drops in each eye. Proparacaine to numb it (with some burning, which I warn patients about; some people act like it’s acid while others say ‘what burning?’), tropicamide, then phenylephrine.
Friendly banter. I thought you were joking about the ‘some people are more sensitive to light’ bit. I mean, obviously, sunglasses were designed to protect eyes from light. I don’t think that everyone who wears sunglasses is hiding their eyes because they are bloodshot. But it does happen, and probably more often than I used to be aware of. And I thought that was amusing is all. I found it funny that you responded to my anecdotal insight with such a serious matter of fact response that I decided to lighten the mood.
A related question, since those that are interested in this thread will probably know the answer to this, too:
Is the dilation of pupils interdependent? I scratched my cornea a couple months ago, and it hurt like hell when exposed to bright light. Unfortunately, even if I closed that eye and put my hand over it, it would still hurt while driving to work in the morning (so much so that I had to have my buddy drive my car a couple times). I think my pupil was contracting on my injured eye based on a signal from my good eye. Is this the case, or was something else going on?
Not really - I happen to be in that category myself. Pretty much all summer I wear both a hat and sunglasses to cut down the glare. Last time I got my eyes dilated I was sent on my way wearing two sets of sunglasses. Fact is, I find normal noon-time daylight actually painful most of the time.
Chalk it up to too many times being accused of hiding hangovers or black eyes or whatever. I realize of course that many people don’t have this issue and are more familiar with your viewpoint.
The issue with tropicamide with pediatric exams is that it’s been shown not to completely remove the ability to accommodate. If the eye doctor was trying to find out NinjaChick’s true prescription, absent any accommodation (other than a baseline of accommodation always present) he/she may have brought out the big guns, i.e., atropine.
Thanks for the responses, everyone! Looks like I will probably be going for the costume contact lenses that Pullet linked to. For some reason I was under the impression that those were prohibitively expensive (of course, that may have been a function of being a jobless high school student last time I looked into making my eyes look weird).