Dilation has been a central part of every eye examination that I've had since the time that I was a child, and I hate everything about it. I don't like having drops put in my eyes, I absolutely hate the actual examination where the doctor shines a light through a lens into my now-dilated eyes, and going out into the daylight with still-dilated eyes isn't a whole lot of fun, either. Well, technology has finally come to the rescue.
The reason that dilation has been standard practice in eye examinations is that the optometrist or ophthalmologist needs to examine retina at the back of the eyeball for tears, holes, and other abnormalities. Dilation forces the iris open so that he can get a decent view. A company named Optos Eye Care has developed an alternative, called optomap (R). With optomap, you look into an opening of a machine that looks like an old-fashioned microfilm reader. There's a green dot that you have to focus on; and when you do, the machine takes a digital image of your retina. No hassle, no pain, no dilation, and the optometrist or opthamologist has a permanent record of what the retina looks like. It typically costs extra to get an eye exam with optomap, but I think that it represents a great leap forward.