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Ophthalmology is a surgical specialty that focuses on the evaluation and treatment of eye disease, often using eye drops, laser procedures, and surgery. Ophthalmologists go to medical school and therefore hold Medical Doctor (MD) degrees. They then complete a 4 year ophthalmology residency often followed by a 1-2 year subspecialty fellowship where they focus on the diseases that affect one part of the eye.

There are two types of ophthalmologists, comprehensive and specialty.
  • A comprehensive ophthalmologist practices general ophthalmology or broad treatment of all parts of the eye; the most common surgery a comprehensive ophthalmologist performs is cataract surgery.
  • Specialty ophthalmologists have also completed fellowship training and focus on only one part of the eye.
A patient will typically be referred to an ophthalmologist by their optometrist (a doctor who performs routine eye exams, including checking glasses and contact lens prescriptions and contact lens fittings) when necessary. Primary care providers, other specialty providers, and emergency room providers may also refer patients to an ophthalmologist for a variety of issues.

The following are conditions that a comprehensive ophthalmologist evaluates: 
  • Dry eye, blepharitis, meibomian gland dysfunction, ocular rosacea, Sjogren’s disease
  • Eye trauma including corneal abrasion, corneal foreign body, subconjunctival hemorrhage, chemical burn, hyphema (bleeding in the front of the eye), eyelid laceration, open globe injury, etc. 
  • Chalazion, stye (also known as hordeolum), ectropion, entropion, trichiasis, dermatochalasis, ptosis, preseptal cellulitis, orbital cellulitis, canaliculitis, dacryocystitis, blepharospasm
  • Conjunctivitis (including bacterial, viral, allergic), episcleritis, scleritis, pinguecula, pterygium, phlyctenulosis
  • Corneal ulcer, herpes simplex keratopathy, herpes zoster/varicella zoster ophthalmicus (shingles affecting the eye), keratoconus, peripheral corneal thinning, corneal dystrophies (including Fuchs endothelial dystrophy), recurrent corneal erosion, filamentary keratopathy, band keratopathy
  • Cataracts
  • Acute angle closure glaucoma, monitoring of ocular hypertension or open angle glaucoma, pseudoexfoliation glaucoma, pigment dispersion glaucoma
  • Diabetic eye exams as well as treatment of diabetic retinopathy including macular edema, age-related macular degeneration, central serous chorioretinopathy, posterior vitreous detachment, epiretinal membrane, retinal artery and vein occlusions, monitoring for Plaquenil toxicity
  • Uveitis (inflammation inside the eye), endophthalmitis
  • Diplopia, optic neuritis, papilledema, non-arteritic ischemic optic neuropathy, giant cell arteritis

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