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A Visit to the Eye Doctor

  • How long will it take?

    It can take up to 3 hours. The time can vary immensely as some children can take longer to assess than others. The drops we use take at least ½ hour to start working.

    What does an eye examination involve?

    • You need to check in first. This can be done remotely at one of the check in kiosks at the entrance to the specialty clinics. Make sure you bring your appointment letter to scan. Otherwise you can check in at Desk A5 in the Specialty clinics on the ground floor.
    • Before your child sees the doctor (ophthalmologist) they will be seen by an orthoptist. An orthoptist is someone specially trained to test your child's eyes. They will gather details of your child's problem and general history/background questions will be asked (eg family history of eye problems etc). 
    • Regardless of the problem, the orthoptist will also perform a full eye examination on your child. Several tests will be performed:
      • Vision test
      • Binocularity and eye movement tests (ie. see if they are using both eyes together properly)
      • Occasionally, depending on the age and cooperation of your child, a glasses test with lenses (subjective refraction) will be performed.
    • Once the orthoptist finishes examining your child, it will be necessary to dilate your child's pupils by putting cycloplegic drops in their eyes (please be aware that these drops can sting!). This is done in preparation for the tests that the doctor will need to perform:
      • Refraction (ie. assess whether there is any short-sightedness, long-sightedness or astigmatism). 
      • Examination of the back of the eye.
    • These drops work by relaxing the iris muscle (the coloured part of the eye), and the hole in the middle of the iris (pupil) gradually becomes larger as the drops take effect. The drops also relax their accommodation (focusing ability). Without this it is impossible to get a full reading of their prescription. The drops allow the doctors to have the best view of the back of your child's eye.  Once their pupils are dilated enough (this will be checked by the nurse in the clinic), the ophthalmologist assesses your child's prescription by shining a light from a special instrument in their eyes. All your child needs to do is look towards the person testing them. This is called a cycloplegic refraction and is the most accurate way of assessing your child's prescription.
    • If it is a sunny day, you may need to bring a hat or sunglasses for them as they will be light sensitive. You will also need to keep an eye on them as they may not be able to see terribly well afterwards. It takes approximately 20-30 mins for the drops to work. Sometimes (although not often) a second drops is required. Their pupils may take until the next morning to go back to normal size, and sometimes the effects can last up to 72 hours. Their vision starts to clear before then.

    What can I do to help before/during their eye examination?

    • It is best to bring them when they are awake and going to be most cooperative (ie. not before nap-time!). This may not always be possible however.
    • Be prepared for up to a 3 hour appointment. This may vary but you may need to make arrangements for car parking or your other children (e.g. school pick up).
    • We have some toys at the clinic, but it may be wise to bring something with you as well (e.g. colouring book). You will also have to wait for about 30mins to 1hour while the drops work. Often we get you to go for a walk, so your child doesn't get too bored in the waiting room.
    • If you think your child may have a squint (an eye which is turning inwards or outwards) try and see if they are always turning the same eye or if it varies. If you have any photos or videos of them with their eyes turning it can be quite helpful in establishing how long it has been there. Often asking close relative if they've noticed anything can help. Sometimes squints only appear intermittently so see when it happens most (e.g. when they are reading, tired, looking in the distance…).