What’s Ophthalmology?

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Ophthalmology is a medical specialty focused on eye health, diagnosing and treating all medical conditions of the eye. It is different from optometry, which focuses on vision correction. Ophthalmologists often receive referral patients from optometrists and may specialize in certain eye conditions or surgery. The field requires extensive education and training.

Ophthalmology is a medical specialty related to eye health. It is studied in medical school and is practiced by physicians (MDs). The field of ophthalmology covers all problems affecting the eye, from vision problems to eye surgery. Ophthalmologists are qualified to both diagnose and treat all medical conditions of the eye. Most ophthalmology practices focus on preventative care for patients’ eyes and are generally run like any other specialty medicine office.

While similar in subject area, ophthalmology is distinctly different from optometry. An optometrist, although also called an ophthalmologist, has usually received training from an optometry training program. That program prepares an optometrist to perform basic eye exams and to release and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses, but it is not a medical degree program. An optometrist can identify serious eye problems, but usually cannot provide treatment. Treatment is the work of an ophthalmologist.

Ophthalmology practices often receive referral patients from optometry clinics. Patients who have trouble seeing often seek out optometrists first. Optometrists often have shops in malls or other public places, where they offer eye exams and sell eyeglasses. The primary focus of an optometrist is vision correction.

For many patients, the services of a licensed optometrist are all that is needed to correct their vision. An optometrist will usually conduct a basic vision test to determine a patient’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to vision and recommend a course forward. Nearsightedness and nearsightedness, for example, are very basic vision problems that an optometrist can easily diagnose and treat. More complex eye problems, especially those requiring medical attention, usually require treatment by an ophthalmologist.

Most ophthalmologists do not deal with glasses or contact lenses. Ophthalmological practice is centered on the medical roots of eye problems. Ophthalmologists examine the eyes not with the goal of correcting vision, as an optometrist would, but rather with the goal of identifying and eradicating underlying problems that are manifesting as eye problems. They often give prescriptions for eyeglasses, but patients usually have to take those prescriptions to optometrists to have them filled and to select the proper corrective eyewear.

Ophthalmology practices, like all medical practices, often have a certain niche of the market that they serve. Some ophthalmologists specialize in, for example, pediatric eye care and spend most of their time working with children who suffer from eye disorders. Others focus on certain eye conditions, such as glaucoma. Eye surgeons are almost always ophthalmologists, even if they work outside of private practice, such as in a hospital.
The ophthalmology major requires an enormous amount of education. Not only must a student seeking a career in ophthalmology pursue a medical degree, but they must also complete all ophthalmology specialization requirements. These requirements vary by country, but typically require internship and residency periods. The total training required is typically ten years or more.

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