An ophthalmologist is a physician who diagnoses and treats problems of the eye. As opposed to optometrists, ophthalmologists are medical doctors, and their specialty is comprehensive eye care and eye surgery. An ophthalmologist can:
see patients for routine eye care
diagnose eye problems
prescribe glasses, contact lenses, and medications
provide refractive therapies to correct vision, such as LASIK
perform surgery on the eye
Ophthalmologists are trained in the same vision screening practices as optometrists; however, their practice tends to focus more on the medical and surgical management of complex eye disorders. Although vision is important, so is the physical health of the eye. An ophthalmologist performing an eye exam will examine the whole eye including the eyelids, the muscles that move the eye, the front and back parts of the eye, and the pressure inside the eye.
Patients sometimes see ophthalmologists as their primary eye care and vision doctors, or they may be referred to an ophthalmologist for treatment of a one-time problem with their eye, such as an infection. Ophthalmologists provide routine care for patients who have chronic eye diseases, such as glaucoma (where pressure inside the eye damages the optic nerve sending images to the brain) or macular degeneration (an age-related eye disease that causes vision loss). In addition to providing routine care, ophthalmologists will perform eye surgery on patients who need more serious treatment, such as a corneal transplant.