About ophthalmologists

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who has done extra study to become an expert on diseases and injuries in and around the eyes. Ophthalmologists are also known as eye doctors or eye surgeons.

Some ophthalmologists specialise in conditions that affect children and babies. They’re known as paediatric ophthalmologists.

Ophthalmologists use a range of treatments, including medication (for example, eye drops), glasses and contact lenses, and surgery on the eyes.

Ophthalmologists often work very closely with optometrists and orthoptists.

Why your child might see an ophthalmologist

Your child might see an ophthalmologist for a full eye health check if it looks like your child has eye problems, or if your child has had an injury to her eyes or the area around her eyes.

An ophthalmologist can diagnose and treat eye conditions like reduced vision (amblyopia), squint, juvenile glaucoma, cataracts, blocked tear ducts, blepharitis, and persistent eye infections like conjunctivitis.

If your child needs an eye operation, an ophthalmologist will do the operation.

Visiting the ophthalmologist

Before your child sees the ophthalmologist, he will usually see an orthoptist, who will do some tests to work out whether your child has any eye movement or vision problems. This usually involves closely examining your child’s eyes and putting some drops into your child’s eyes to dilate his pupils.

When the orthoptist has done all the tests, your child will see the ophthalmologist, who will talk to you about diagnosis and treatment options.

Your GP or child and family health nurse is always a good place to start if you’re worried about your child’s health or development. Your GP can help you decide about seeing an ophthalmologist and help you find someone who’s right for your child. To see an ophthalmologist, you need a referral from your GP or optometrist.

Before going to an ophthalmologist

If your GP or optometrist refers your child to an ophthalmologist, it’s a good idea to talk with your GP or optometrist about the following things:

  • Why you’re going to the ophthalmologist: talk with your GP about why your child needs a referral to an ophthalmologist and whether there’s anything you can do while you’re waiting for the appointment.
  • Waiting list: how long before you can get an appointment to see the ophthalmologist?
  • Making an appointment: it might take you more than one phone call to make an appointment.
  • Cost: how much will the appointment with the ophthalmologist cost? It might be expensive, so you could check whether you can get money back from Medicare or private health insurance.
  • Location: find out where you have to go to see the ophthalmologist – for example, a public or private hospital, or consulting rooms. You might have to travel further than you expect, depending on your child’s needs.

You can talk about these things and any other questions you have with your GP before you go to the ophthalmologist. You could also ask the ophthalmologist’s clinic when you make your appointment. It’s a good idea to write down any questions you have, so you don’t forget.