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MedEd Connections Resource Guides: Blind and Visually Impaired

Preparing for Eye Doctor Visits

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The most common causes of low vision in the United States are glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, traumatic brain injury, and cortical/cerebral visual impairment (CVI). Congenital conditions develop inside the womb and hereditary conditions are genetic. CVI is unique because the vision impairment originates from the brain instead of the eyes.

Tips to Prepare for and Benefit From Doctor Appointments

Create a medical care notebook or binder including the following elements:

  • A list of your questions so the doctor can address all of your concerns,
  • Written observations of your child’s vision abilities, challenges, and habits,
  • Notes taken during the appointment may help you spell medical terms, remember suggested treatments and their pros and cons, and remember the names of recommended specialists,
  • A section detailing your child’s medical history, including specific dates, medications, and surgical procedures,
  • Contact information of all doctors you visit,
  • Discharge paperwork,
  • Insurance information.

You may want to bring a friend or family member to take notes for you so you don’t have to split your focus between your notes and the doctor speaking.

What to Expect at the Eye Doctor Visit

There may be some waiting involved, so you and your child may want to bring something to pass the time. An eye doctor visit could be anywhere from 1 to 2 hours. The first matter of business will consist of noting down your child’s medical history in an official file. These may include questions such as:

  • Has your child been in a hospital recently for any reason?
  • What medications does your child currently use, or is there any new medication?
  • Has your child been experiencing any pain or irritation in the eyes or head?
  • Has your child been struggling to see anything in particular?

After that the attending professional may perform a variety of procedures and assessments, such as administering eye drops, shining a light into your child’s eyes, using a machine for an in-depth eye examination, and vision charts. The doctor or an assistant may perform these tasks.

The eye drops may sting, and are typically used to dilate the eyes. The light shining is to test light perception. Machines may be used to monitor and assess the health and functionality of structures deep inside the eyes, such as the retina. Your child will place his or her chin on a resting perch, and the doctor will use a variety of high-power lenses to look deep into the eyes. The doctor may hold open the eye lids while doing this. Additionally, the doctor may use a machine to take your child’s eye pressure, or to take a picture. Eye pressure procedures may be unsettling for your child, but it should not hurt. A bright blue swirly pressurizer will be placed on the surface of the eyes. A healthy eye has an eye pressure of ten. Some machines are used to take pictures of structures inside the eye. Pictures may be used to compare and contrast the effect of treatments, or be gathered as data to develop further treatments.

At some point your child will be asked to view a series of charts to measure current vision. These charts may include numbers, letters, or pictures in various sizes.

            Once the doctor has gathered information on your child’s eye health, a diagnosis or identification of problems may be made ;and a course of treatment will be recommended. Treatments may include medication, injections, surgery, or eye glasses. Feel free to ask the doctor for clarification if things are confusing, or to ask about the pros and cons of each treatment. Now may also be a good time to ask any additional questions you may have. You can peruse this web page to get ideas as to what questions to ask.

It may be good to have the address of your pharmacy on hand in case the doctor prescribes medication. Ultimately the choice of treatment is the decision of the child’s guardian. You may get a second opinion from another professional if you are uncertain. Lastly, you may want to have a calendar on hand to plan a date for a follow up appointment.


Please note, the above description is a brief overview, not a detailed account of all that an eye doctor visit may entail. For more information, visit:

Comprehensive Eye Exams: What To Expect -

It may be helpful to know what to expect when you and your child visit the eye doctor.

Additionally, you may want assistance planning questions to Ask Your Eye Doctor.

Want to get an idea of what your child is seeing? See the eye disease simulators from Eye Site on Wellness and Richmond Eye Associates, P.C.. If your child’s eye condition is not included in that simulator, you can ask your child’s eye doctor, teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI), or an orientation and mobility specialist if they have a simulator specific to your child’s vision.

Need help finding a retina or low vision specialist? The following organization has a locating feature on its website which is state specific.

Want to find a definition of your child’s medical diagnosis and build your understanding of medical terminology?

Eye Health Information A-Z National Eye Institute

Glossary Of Eye Terminology

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