COVID-19 notice: Read more
eyeMatters periodic news

Bringing you the latest news & resources in eye health

Article Article

Subspecialties of ophthalmology


Eye disease and treatment related terminology

What the different types of ophthalmologists do

Our doctors at Vision Eye Institute have completed specialist training in the diagnosis and management of disorders of the eye to become general ophthalmologists. In addition, many have undertaken further training, which may include extra qualifications, to gain expertise in specific diseases or parts of the eye – this is called subspecialisation.

As a result, Vision Eye Institute can offer patients the full spectrum of ophthalmic care. All of the doctors who work at Vision Eye Institute are registered with the medical college responsible for ophthalmologists – the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists – as required by law. Below is a short description of each of the specialty areas in ophthalmology. Some of our doctors have specialised in more than one area.

General (or comprehensive) ophthalmologists treat a wide variety of eye conditions and perform cataract surgery, as well as prescribe glasses and contact lenses. A general ophthalmologist may refer you to another ophthalmologist in certain situations where more specialised care is required.

Refractive surgeons perform vision correction procedures to correct refractive errors using techniques such as laser eye surgery (LASIK, SMILE, ASLA) and lens surgery. Refractive errors include short-sightedness (myopia), long-sightedness (hyperopia), age-related long-sightedness (presbyopia) and astigmatism.

Corneal specialists diagnose and treat diseases of the cornea, which is the clear ‘windscreen’ at the front of the eye. These conditions include dry eye disease, corneal trauma, keratoconus, Surfer’s Eye (pterygium) and Fuch’s dystrophy. Corneal cross-linking and corneal transplantation (keratoplasty) are some of the procedures that these specialists may perform.

Glaucoma specialists are experts in treating the various conditions that affect the optic nerve, of which glaucoma is the most common. Managing eye pressure is the only method known to effectively treat glaucoma, and can be achieved by medical, laser and surgical means.

Retinal specialists diagnose and manage diseases affecting the back region of the eye. This includes the retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye), the macula (the part of the retina that is responsible for central vision) and the vitreous (the clear jelly-like fluid that fills the bulk of the eye). Diagnostic tests may include ultrasound, dye techniques (fluorescein angiography) and electrophysiology, while they may perform treatments such as laser therapy, vitrectomy (removal of the vitreous), cryotherapy (a freezing treatment) and surgery to repair torn/detached retinas.

Oculoplastic surgeons perform plastic surgery of the structures around the eye – e.g. the eye socket (orbital surgery), around the eyeball (periocular surgery), the tear drainage system (lacrimal surgery) and the eyelid (blepharoplasty).

Paediatric specialists have expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions that affect infants and children. Common conditions include eyes that do not align with each other (strabismus), lazy eye (amblyopia), genetic and developmental abnormalities and trauma.

Ocular inflammation specialists are interested in the various inflammatory conditions that affect the eye and are the result of an abnormally functioning immune system (e.g. uveitis and scleritis). These doctors have specific knowledge about therapies that modify the immune system, and often work in conjunction with other medical immunology specialists (e.g. immunologists and rheumatologists).

Neuro-ophthalmologists treat visual problems related to the brain and nervous system. Examples of this include abnormal eye movements, unequal pupil size (anisicoria), double vision and various types of vision loss. Underlying causes may include strokes, brain tumours and thyroid conditions.

Find an ophthalmologist

All medical and surgical procedures have potential complications. Check with your ophthalmologist before proceeding.

Enjoyed this article?

More articles on this subject
General eye health

The information on this page is general in nature. All medical and surgical procedures have potential benefits and risks. Consult your ophthalmologist for specific medical advice.

Date last reviewed: 2020-06-18 | Date for next review: 2022-06-18

IMPORTANT: If you are concerned about your eyes and require an urgent consultation, DO NOT use this form. Please call one of our clinics during office hours or contact your nearest emergency department.

coloured spectrum bar