How many times have you had to go visit the hospital and walked past the ophthalmologist’s office? Do you have any idea who an ophthalmologist is, or what ophthalmology means?

Ophthalmology is the medical study of conditions related to the eye, while an ophthalmologist is a doctor who specializes in the medical or surgical treatments of the eye.

Patients suffering from cataracts, optic nerve problems, infections in the eye, or optic nerve conditions, may be referred to by a general practice doctor to an ophthalmologist.

This article is focused on letting readers know who an ophthalmologist is, what they do, the types of eye conditions they treat and more.

Who is an ophthalmologist?

An ophthalmologist is a medical practitioner whose specialty is to diagnose and treat conditions relating to the eye.

To be a certified ophthalmologist in the United States, a person must complete the following;

  • 4 years in the university and a medical degree
  • A year of the postgraduate clinical year
  • Residence training (at least 36 months) that centers on ophthalmology
  • A certification with the “American Board of Ophthalmology” that involves oral and written exams

Some ophthalmologists go through a year or two of fellowship training. This training focuses on specializing in one of the many sub-specialties of ophthalmology, and this includes;

  • The cornea
  • Glaucoma
  • The retina
  • Pediatrics
  • Uveitis
  • Neuro-ophthalmology
  • Refractive surgery
  • Ocular oncology
  • Plastic and reconstructive surgery

Sub-specialist ophthalmologists would have completed training that exposes them to treat complex eye conditions, work on an explicit part of the eyes, or conditions that affect a particular group of people.

They also have more extensive training than your regular ophthalmologists so that they are able to perform very tricky surgeries on specific parts of the eyes.

What conditions do ophthalmologists treat?

Ophthalmologists are responsible for diagnosing, preventing, and treating almost all issues connected with the eye. However, certain conditions are treated and monitored by sub-specialist ophthalmologists and they include;

  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Retinal conditions like diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration
  • Corneal conditions
  • Cases invoking childhood eye complications
  • Cases involving intricate surgical procedures like advance vision repair or reconstructive surgery
  • Cases that involve optic nerve issues, double vision, abnormal eye movements, and vision loss

Apart from treatments of the eyes, an ophthalmologist has been trained to notice symptoms that aren’t directly linked to the eye. Hence, they are able to refer or diagnose patients to the appropriate treatments.

Many ophthalmologists are also involved in some form of scientific explorations that focuses on the causes of vision and eye conditions, including possible cures.

What procedures does an ophthalmologist do?

Most ophthalmologists have been trained and certified to perform different types of medical and surgical procedures. These procedures depend on many factors, such as the type of specialty and practice that the ophthalmologist is involved in.

Some of the most common procedures that ophthalmologists are involved in include monitoring mild eye conditions and diagnosing complications with the eye and vision.

They would also prescribe glasses or contact lenses to help patients correct their vision problems.

Some procedures that subspecialists generally perform include:

  • Cataract surgery
  • Cancer treatment
  • Glaucoma surgery
  • Diagnosing of eye conditions
  • Monitoring moderate to severe eye complications
  • Surgery to correct poor vision
  • Repair of torn and detached retinas
  • Corneal transplants
  • Reconstructive surgeries to fix trauma or abnormalities like crosses eyes
  • Injections around the face and eyes to repair facial appearance and structure-function
  • Severe or chronic tear duct infections

When do you see an ophthalmologist?

Generally, people visit an ophthalmologist when they are experiencing chronic complications with their vision, such as:

  • Excessive tearing
  • Bulging eyes
  • Experiencing flashes of light
  • Eye redness
  • Blocked, distorted, reduced, or double vision
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Problems or abnormalities in eyelids
  • Floaters in the eyes
  • Seeing halos it colored circles around lights
  • Misaligned eyes

Emergency care is needed if patients are experiencing symptoms that include;

Referral may also be necessary if patients symptoms may increase the risk of the following;

In such cases, family doctors, emergency room doctors, pediatricians, or optometrists would usually refer patients to an ophthalmologist.

It is recommended by the American Academy of Ophthalmology for people to go for an overall medical eye checkup when they are 40. This is encouraged because ophthalmologists are able to create a profile of the health of their eyes.

A baseline profile is important as it makes it easier for doctors to track eye or changes in vision, especially complications that are difficult to detect.

Doctors that aren’t ophthalmologists

Unlike ophthalmologists, opticians and optometrists are not medical practitioners. Nevertheless, members of these three distinct vocations can, and frequently do, practice in the same office.

Generally, optometrists are healthcare workers that provide primary vision care. Optometrists have an (OD) Doctor of Optometry degree. This degree requires the completion of 3 to 4 years of college, followed by 4 years of optometry school.

While the methods of operation vary between individual practices and states or clinics, some optometrists:

  • Prescribe corrective lenses
  • Dispense medicated glasses
  • Perform eye exams and vision tests
  • Help to monitor and manage vision changes
  • Prescribe medication to help control specific eye conditions
  • Refer patients to other doctors when certain conditions are severe

Opticians are a special type of healthcare technician. They’ve been specially trained to help confirm, design, select specific corrective vision devices, and some of them include contact lenses, frames, and eyeglasses.

Opticians do not treat if diagnose eye conditions. They are meant to follow the guidance and prescription of ophthalmologists and optometrist.

Other eye professionals that frequently work with optometrists and ophthalmologists are;

  1. Ophthalmic technicians: These are highly trained professionals that assist ophthalmologists to perform simple surgeries and intricate tests.
  2. Ophthalmic medical assistants: They assist ophthalmologists in performing different tests.
  3. Ophthalmic registered nurse: These are healthcare specialists that help ophthalmologists in performing technical tasks like injecting medications and assisting with surgeries.
  4. Ophthalmic photographer: These healthcare workers use special cameras to create images of the eye that help detect and document eye conditions.

Have you ever had to go to the clinic to have your eyes checked by an ophthalmologist? What methods and procedures were used to check in your eyes? Share with us in the comments box below.


  1. It’s good to know that going to any ophthalmology clinic can refer me to experts in case I have a sever eye condition. There days when my vision gets obstructed by small black spots and it’s starting to get very concerning. I hope that whatever this condition may be, it can be treated effectively.