An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in issues related to the health of the eyes. In addition to diagnosing and treating vision problems, ophthalmologists have the skill and training needed to diagnose and provide medical care, and even eye surgery, for all eye problems. To become an ophthalmologist, an individual must first complete four years of general medical school and become a medical doctor. After obtaining a medical degree, they must then complete an internship and residency of at least four years. During this time, doctors study eye health intensively and practice medicine and surgery in a hospital based setting. They learn how to measure and diagnose vision problems and to determine the need for glasses and contact lenses, which are frequently called contacts.
In addition, ophthalmologists are experts on treating common eye problems. They are the only eye care professionals who are able to perform surgery, such as laser eye surgery, which eliminates or diminishes the need for corrective lenses (glasses and contacts), as well as surgery to treat illness and diseases that plague the eyes.
It is not uncommon for ophthalmologists to specialize in a certain area of the eye; some are specialists in treating issues dealing with the retina, others focus on glaucoma and some dedicate their practice to cornea health. Regardless of their area of expertise, as medical doctors, ophthalmologists can prescribe medications to their patients when necessary.
According to The Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, in order for a doctor to become certified as an ophthalmologist, he or she must complete four years of college and eight additional years of medical education and training, as well as pass a rigorous two-part examination given by the American Board of Ophthalmology.
Ophthalmologists often work closely with other types of eye care professionals, including optometrists and opticians. It is important to remember that while other eye care professionals, such as optometrists and opticians, do play a role in correcting vision problems by diagnosing, treating and managing eye disease; the only practitioners licensed to perform surgery on the eyes are ophthalmologists.
If you need to find an ophthalmologist to provide you with medical care for your eyes or to help diagnose and treat a vision problem, ask your general doctor for a referral or click here to find a qualified ophthalmologist in your area.