Your Questions Answered

What is an Ophthalmologist?

An ophthalmologist, also called an eye doctor, is a medically trained doctor who has undertaken further specialist training and study in matters relating to the human eye.In the Republic of Ireland there are two types of Eye Specialists ; Medical Eye doctors who undergo 11 years of clinical medical training, and Eye Surgeons who undergo on average 14 years of clinical medical training.

When should I see an Eye Doctor?

Adults should see an eye doctor as soon as possible if they notice any

of the following: 

Changes in vision such as sudden spots, flashes of light, lightning streaks or jagged lines of light, wavy or watery vision, blurry faces, distortions or wavy lines, haloes around lights, double vision 

Changes in the field of vision such as shadows, curtain-like loss of vision, black spots or blurriness in central or peripheral (side) vision 

Changes in colour vision

Loss of vision such as decreased or no vision in one or both eyes 

Physical changes to the eye such as crossed eyes, eyes that turn in, out, up or down, pain, signs of infection (redness, swelling, discharge, etc.) 

If I'm feeling healthy how often should I have my eyes checked?

Healthy adults who do not notice anything wrong with their eyes should see an eye doctor according to this schedule:

Age 19 to 40: at least every 10 years

Age 41 to 55: at least every 5 years

Age 56 to 65: at least every 3 years

Over age 65: at least every 2 years

Are some people more at risk from eye disease than others?

Anyone can develop sight problems, but some people have a higher risk of eye disease.

These include people with diabetes; people of African or Hispanic descent; those with a tendency toward high intraocular pressure; those with a family history of glaucoma, cataract, macular degeneration, or retinal detachment; those with a previous eye injury; people taking certain medications; and those with very poor eyesight. People who have diabetes are at risk of losing vision through a condition called diabetic retinopathy, in which the retina becomes damaged.

If you fall into one of these categories you should see an eye doctor according to this schedule:

Over age 40: at least every 3 years

Over age 50: at least every 2 years

Over age 60: at least once a year

How can I make an appointment with an eye doctor?

For an appointment to see any medical specialist working in the HSE, including eye doctors, you need to get a referral from your General Practitioner (GP). A GP has knowledge of the specialists in his/her area and can ensure that any important information relating to your medical history is passed to the eye doctor.

Can I make an appointment directly with an eye doctor?

While it is advisable to seek a referral from your GP many eye doctors working in the community will give you an appointment directly - you can find contact details for eye doctors at this page 
The Irish Medical Council maintain the medical register, which lists all doctors (including ophthalmologists) who are qualified to practice in the Ireland. The Medical Council protects the interests of the public when dealing with registered medical practitioners. The Medical Council also holds the specialist register which gives details of a doctors' specialist training. The Irish College of Ophthalmologists advises the Medical Council on the suitability of eye doctors for inclusion on the Ophthalmology specialist division of the register 

What is the difference between an ophthalmologist, orthoptist and optometrist?

They are all professionally trained people who treat those with ophthalmic problems.

Ophthalmologists are medically trained doctors who have undertaken further specialist training and study in matters relating to the human eye. They examine, diagnose and treat diseases and injuries of the eye.

Orthoptists diagnose and treat defects of vision and abnormalities of eye movement. They are usually part of a hospital care team looking after people with eye problems especially those related to binocular vision, amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (squint).

Optometrists examine eyes, give advice on visual problems and prescribe and fit glasses or contact lenses.

Are there different types of Eye Doctors?

Eye doctors specialise in the medical care of the eyes and visual system and on the prevention of eye diseases and injury and  deliver total eye care; (vision services, contact lenses, eye examinations, medical eye care incl laser treatments and minor lid procedures). Some eye doctors, also called ophthalmic suregeons, carry out eye operations.

Can I check that an ophthalmologist is registered with the Irish Medical Council?

Yes, via the Council website

What is the Irish College of Ophthalmologists?

The Irish College of Ophthalmologists represents Eye Doctors (Ophthalmologists and Ophthalmic Surgeons) practicing in the Republic of Ireland. The College is responsible for the accreditation of Postgraduate training and continuing medical education. 

Does an ophthalmologist have to be a member of The Irish College of Ophthalmologists?

No. However, the vast majority of eye doctors practicing in Ireland members. 

Is there an eye doctor that I can speak to at the College?

No. We do not have eye doctors working on site. Members of the College Council and committee members are eye doctors but they act for the College in a voluntary capacity. 

What can I do if I want to make a complaint?

The Irish College of Ophthalmologists is not a disciplinary body and does not deal with complaints about eye doctors.The regulatory body for doctors is the Irish Medical Council.