What Does an Eye Surgeon Do?

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  • Written By: Judith Smith Sullivan
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 31 January 2020
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An eye surgeon is a physician that provides almost all types of medical care associated with the eye. Typically, eye surgeons meet with patients to perform check-ups or disease screenings, assess injuries or illness, perform surgeries, and prescribe medication and corrective lenses. An eye surgeon may have his or her own practice, be part of a multiple doctor practice, or work in a hospital.

Another name for an eye surgeon is an ophthalmologist. An ophthalmologist has attended medical school and completed a number of years of residency, or supervised medical practice. He is typically licensed by the government in the location where he practices. In the US, doctors are licensed by the individual states.

Opthamologists should not not to be confused with optometrists. Optometrists are trained to diagnose and treat some diseases, perform regular eye exams, and prescribe lenses, but do not perform surgery. Usually, they have attended a school of optometry but not a medical school.


An eye surgeon's typical appointment with a patient includes checking the eyes for disease, which sometimes requires the use of various types equipment. The eye surgeon then uses a bright light to look into the patient's eye for further indicators of illness, injury, or abnormality. Astigmatism, a defect in the shape of the eye which can cause otherwise good vision to appear blurry, is often diagnosed at this point in the exam. The ophthalmologist asks the patient if he or she has noticed any discomfort, itchiness, swelling, unusual redness, dryness, or other symptoms. If the patient does not complain of any symptoms, and the eye is sound, the eye surgeon continues the exam.

In the second part of the exam, the vision is assessed. Using charts with different sized letters, numbers, and sometimes pictures, the eye surgeon can gauge the fitness of the patient's vision. In some cases, corrective glasses or contact lenses are prescribed to correct faulty vision.

Some types of abnormalities in the eye require surgery to correct. Two of the most common are glaucoma and cataracts. Surgery is also used to correct vision with lasers or corneal alteration. In cases when the cornea is damaged beyond repair, an eye surgeon can perform a transplant surgery using a cornea from a donor. There are many more additional types of surgeries to correct problems with the eye.

Eye surgeons are also responsible for paperwork. They must complete files on their patients, maintain their license with continuing education credits on a yearly basis, and &emdash; if they are the owner of their own practice &emdash; perform all the tasks associated with being a business proprietor. Often, opthamologists require help from office managers, secretaries, and nurses to run the practice.



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