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An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (M.D. or osteopath) uniquely trained to diagnose and treat all disorders of the eye.

How is an ophthalmologist trained?

An ophthalmologist has typically completed the following:

bulletFour years of college;
bulletFour years of medical school;
bulletA year of internship;
bulletAt least three years of hospital based training (called residency) in the diagnosis and medical and surgical treatment of eye disorders.

To become certified, doctors must complete a minimum of eight years of education and training after college, including medical school and ophthalmology residency at an accredited residence program, and must pass a difficult, two-part written and oral examination given by the American Board of Ophthalmology. This exam tests not only knowledge but also the ability to provide expert care to patients.

What is a subspecialist?

For most eye diseases, a general ophthalmologist provides comprehensive care. While all ophthalmologists specialize in the treatment of eye problems, some concentrate on a more specific area of medical or surgical eye care.
An ophthalmologist usually begins this sub specialization by completing one to two years' additional fellowship training. Some subspecialists focus on the treatment of a disease, such as glaucoma. Others subspecialize in a particular part of the eye, such as the retina. Pediatric ophthalmologists subspecialize in treating eye disease in children.

When should I see an ophthalmologist?

An ophthalmologist is trained in all aspects of eye care - medical, surgical and optical. A comprehensive ophthalmologist can provide all your eye care needs. Recommended intervals for eye examinations are as follows:

bulletNewborn, pre-school and pre-teen: By pediatrician, family doctor or ophthalmologist.
bullet20-39 years of age: African Americans, because of greater risk for glaucoma, should be seen every 3-5 years. Others can be seen less frequently.
bullet40-64 years of age: Every 2-4 years.
bullet65 years or older: Every 1-2 years.

You should have your eyes examined by an ophthalmologist if you have any of these problems:

bulletDecreased vision, even if temporary;
bulletNew floaters (black "strings" or specks in the vision);
bulletFlashes of light;
bulletCurtain or veil blocking vision;
bulletHaloes (colored circles around lights);
bulletEye pain;
bulletRedness of the eye or skin around the eye;
bulletEye discharge or tearing;
bulletBulging of one or both eyes;
bulletCrossed eyes;
bulletDouble vision;
bulletFamily history of eye disease.

You should also see your ophthalmologist if you are referred by your family doctor, pediatrician or internist.

What happens during an eye examination?

Your ophthalmologist and assistants will review your current symptoms as well as your past eye and medical history. Eye drops may be used.

The examination evaluates:

bulletVisual acuity;
bulletNeed for eyeglasses or contact lenses (refraction);
bulletEye muscle coordination;
bulletResponse of your pupils to light;
bulletSide (peripheral) vision;
bulletRisk of glaucoma;
bulletThe surface and the inside of the eye using optical instruments.

Your ophthalmologist can determine whether your eyes are healthy, and can also detect diseases in other parts of your body that may affect your eyes.

What treatments are available for my eyes?

Your ophthalmologist will discuss the results of your eye examination with you. If your eyes are healthy, you may only need eyeglasses or contact lenses to correct your vision.

Some eye diseases are treated with medication, such as eye drops or pills. Other diseases may require laser surgery or other operations.

Your ophthalmologist can provide you with the treatment you need, or in some cases, may refer you to a sub specialist.
Despite progress in medical research, some eye conditions cannot be cured. Nevertheless, your ophthalmologist can offer counseling and support while monitoring your condition.

Loss of sight may be prevented! Regular visits to your ophthalmologist should be as important as examinations by your family physician because some eye diseases do not cause symptoms for months or years.

In many cases, early treatment of glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, crossed eyes and some forms of macular degeneration can prevent loss of sight and even blindness.

Your ophthalmologist's goal is to protect your sight through early diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions.


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West Texas Eye Associates
Tim Khater, M.D., Ph.D.

Lubbock's Eyecare Center for Excellence

Copyright 1999 Tim Khater, M.D., Ph.D..  For information, please contact drkhater@wtxeye.com

Prior to using email communications for confidential personal information, please see our email communications policy and disclaimer.

Last updated January 11, 2009 .
This page designed and created by Tim Khater, M.D., Ph.D..  (yes, the doctor really created the web page, ...without any help from his kids...)

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