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The Three O's

There has long been confusion about the respective roles that each of the "Three O's" play in eye care. How can one help but get confused when you have three words that date back to a dead language and all start with "OP."

Ophthalmologist:
An ophthalmologist (also known as an "Eye M.D.") is a physician (Doctor of Medicine, M.D., or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, D.O.) who specializes in the examination and treatment of the eyes.

To become an ophthalmologist, one must attend medical school after college and serve an internship in general medicine. After the internship, the individual must complete a residency program in ophthalmology which is generally three years long and includes between 5,000 and 15,000 contacts with patients.

Though most ophthalmologists practice what is known as "general" or "comprehensive" ophthalmology, some choose to specialize in a particular part of the eye (such as the retina or the muscles around the eye) or type of condition or disease (such as glaucoma). If the ophthalmologist wishes to specialize, he or she must complete a fellowship of an additional year or more.

A common misbelief about ophthalmologists is that they are not primary eye care providers. That is simply not true. Ophthalmologists provide total eye care, from performing a check up to managing a complicated disease. 
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Ophthalmologists ...

  • check vision for abnormalities and disease

  • prescribe glasses and contact lenses

  • treat all eye conditions and disease, including those of the surrounding flesh, bones, and muscle with surgery (conventional and laser surgery), medications, etc.

  • are trained to diagnose other conditions and illnesses based on symptoms evident in the eyes and refer patients to the appropriate physician for treatment