These physicians see patients with eye problems and health conditions such as diabetes that may increase risk of eye diseases who range in age from children through elderly adults. General ophthalmologists are medical doctors (MD) who perform comprehensive eye examinations and surgical evaluations. General ophthalmologists may collaborate with other sub-specialty ophthalmologists such as glaucoma, retina, cornea, or oculoplastics specialists in the care of more complex cases.
Ophthalmologists complete a Bachelor of Science degree (B.Sc.), a 4-year medical degree (M.D.) and an additional 5-year residency specializing in eye surgery and secondary vision care consultations. They typically do not provide refractions.
Co-management between optometrists and ophthalmologists can also benefit certain patients. An optometrist is not a medical doctor. An optometrist receives a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree after completing four years of optometry school, preceded by three years or more years of college. Optometrists will often provide health screening and prescriptions for glasses and contact lenses, and will consult with a general ophthalmologist or sub-specialist for patients with eye diseases or general health conditions that can be a risk to eye health.
General ophthalmologists are often the first doctors to see patients for periodic medical eye exams as well as for specific visual or ocular complaints. They take care of a variety of conditions, such as diabetes, dry eyes, cataracts and glaucoma. General ophthalmologists evaluate a large range of symptoms such as blurry vision, poor night vision, transient loss of vision, loss of visual field, sudden loss of vision, difficulty with near vision, eye pain, red eyes, eye fatigue, fluctuating vision, itching or burning, crusts or discharge, excess tearing, double vision and itching or redness of the eyelids.
Most patients are referred to a general ophthalmologist by an optometrist, internist, family practice doctor, endocrinologist, neurologist, dermatologist, pediatrician or other medical specialist in the community.