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What to expect at an eye exam

At Dell Children’s - Eye Center, we help make your appointment as smooth as possible for you and your child.

Boy wearing glasses.

What to expect at an eye exam at Dell Children’s

Welcome to the Dell Children’s - Eye Center. If this is you or your child’s first eye examination, you may have some questions or concerns about what is going to happen. Experienced pediatric eye doctors (ophthalmologists) at Dell Children's deliver advanced care for children with eye and vision conditions, and adults with double vision and strabismus. The first appointment starts with a conversation about you or your child’s eyes, symptoms, health history and your concerns. Using advanced tests, we diagnose eye conditions. Then, we create a personalized care plan.

What should I bring to the eye exam?

When you come for an eye exam, please bring the following with you:

  • An adult* must accompany all children under 18 years old

○ Foster parents: please bring all legal documents to your visit

○ Siblings: we ask that you only bring the child who will be receiving care to the appointment, if possible

  • Current insurance card and identification
  • Co-payment, if required by insurance
  • Medical records from referring doctor, if you have them*
  • Glasses (if currently being used)

*As much as we’d like for you to attend all appointments, we understand if you are unable to. If a caregiver is accompanying your child to the appointment, please send a signed note so we know we have permission to discuss treatment with them and be on the lookout for registration which is sent 2 days prior to be completed.

**We can request medical records from your or your child’s referring doctor on your behalf.

Who will I or my child see during the visits?

A pediatric ophthalmologist is a doctor who is specially trained to care for children's eye conditions. An ophthalmologist can perform surgery.

An ophthalmic technician works with an ophthalmologist to provide care by performing eye-related clinical tasks, such as taking medical histories, giving instructions for medications, and performing some tests and helping with procedures.

What happens during the visit?

For a new patient, there are several steps to the first examination. First, we need to obtain a complete medical history and an initial evaluation that includes testing vision. This may be done by your doctor, by an ophthalmic technician, or by a resident or fellow. 

Eye drops may be given to dilate the pupils. Usually three drops or more are given in each eye. The first is a numbing drop that may sting slightly for 5 to 10 seconds. Then the dilating drop or drops are given. These don't sting at all since the eyes are numb from the first drop.

Even though the drops don't really hurt, many children just don't like the idea of getting them and may require gentle restraint for a few seconds while we administer the drops.

After the pupils are dilated, the doctor calls you back to complete the examination.

Why are eye drops needed?

Eye drops allow the doctor to shine light in the eye and see what is inside without the pupil getting small.

This has a side effect of making it hard to focus — especially up close — for 24 to 72 hours(depending on the type of drop and the patient's sensitivity). Kids can go back to school afterward, but they may have trouble reading or doing homework for several hours. Adults may or may not be able to drive home. It depends on how severely the vision is blurred by the drops. If you are not sure, plan to have someone pick you up.

How do you check the vision of a baby or young child?

After the dilating drops are given, the doctor shines a light in the eye and looks at the focus of the light that has been reflected through the eye. The doctor then places different lenses in front of the eye until the focus looks right. Once the proper lens power is determined, the doctor decides whether the child needs help keeping things in focus — if so, glasses will be prescribed. 

How can you tell if a baby or young child needs glasses?

We are experienced in working with infants and young children. Sometimes we just check to see how well the child tracks a toy. Other times we use cards that have stripes on one side and watch to see which way the baby looks. We may also have the child play matching games. Our care team personalizes the exam for the interest, ability, and age of your child.

How long does it take for an eye exam?

Please plan to spend up to three hours at your appointment. Registration can take 15 minutes. The history and initial evaluation takes about 15 minutes depending on the complexity of the history and cooperation of the patient. Expect to wait about30-45 minutes for the numbing and dilation drops to work before being called back to the exam room. The final part of the exam takes another 15 minutes depending on how many questions you might have. If your child needs additional tests, you may be here for two or even three hours for a first visit.

Will the exam start on time?

We make every effort to stay on schedule. Sometimes, we fall behind schedule due to emergencies or unexpectedly complex eye problems. You should be notified when you check in if there is a delay. If you find that you have been waiting more than 15 minutes after check-in and you have not yet been called, please check with a member of our front desk team for an update. If there is a delay, we thank you for your patience and understanding. 


Thank you for choosing Dell Children’s - Eye Center. We apologize for the long wait time to be seen in our office. If you have any immediate concerns from now to the time of your or your child’s appointment, please call 512-324-6755.

What to expect at an eye exam