An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who has done extra study to become an expert on diseases and injuries in and around the eyes and conditions that cause problems with vision. Ophthalmologists are also known as eye doctors or eye surgeons.
Some ophthalmologists specialise in conditions that affect babies and children. They’re called paediatric ophthalmologists.
If your child has health or development concerns, health professionals like ophthalmologists are there to care for your child and help you understand your child’s condition and treatment. With the support and expertise of these professionals, you can help your child thrive.
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 vision or eye problems, or if your child has had an injury to their eyes or the area around their eyes.
An ophthalmologist can diagnose and treat eye conditions like reduced vision, squint, paediatric glaucoma, cataracts, blocked tear ducts, blepharitis, and persistent eye infections like conjunctivitis.
Ophthalmologists use a range of treatments, including medication like eye drops, glasses and contact lenses, and surgery.
If your child needs eye surgery, an ophthalmologist will do the surgery.
Going to an ophthalmologist
Before your child goes to an ophthalmologist, they’ll usually see an orthoptist, who’ll 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 their pupils.
When the orthoptist has done all the tests, your child will see the ophthalmologist, who’ll 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 things like the following:
- Why you’re going: talk with your GP or optometrist about why your child needs to see an ophthalmologist.
- Appointments: do you need to make the appointment, or will the GP make it for you?
- Waiting lists: how long before you can get an appointment to see the ophthalmologist?
- Is there anything you can do while you’re waiting for the appointment? For example, can your child start some treatment or therapy?
- Costs: how much will the appointment with the ophthalmologist cost? Check whether you can get money back from Medicare, private health insurance or another agency.
- Locations: find out where you have to go to see the ophthalmologist – for example, public hospital, private hospital or consulting rooms.
You could also ask these and any other questions when you make the appointment with the ophthalmologist’s clinic. It’s a good idea to write down your questions, so you don’t forget.