Ophthalmology is a specialization in medicine, but there are also several subspecialties of ophthalmology, which focus on certain diseases or parts of the eyes. This is not a complete list of all subspecialties in the field of ophthalmology, although it is a good overview of the possibilities for ophthalmologists who are looking to further specialize in a certain area.
Anterior Segment Surgery
This subspecialty focuses on the anterior segment of the eye, which includes the cornea, iris, ciliary body, and lens. Ophthalmologists who specialize in this area have advanced knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of these structures and are capable of performing complex surgical procedures.
Cataracts and Refractive Surgery
As most general ophthalmologists perform cataract surgery on a regular basis, this is not a subspecialization in the sense that the others are. However, it is a distinct field of ophthalmology and physicians may wish to expand their understanding of this area of eye health. Ophthalmologists with this subspecialization commonly perform refractive surgery, which aims to correct refractive errors in the eye.
Cornea and External Disease
This opthalmology subspecialty deals with the diseases of the cornea, conjunctiva, sclera, and eyelids. Ophthalmologists specializing in this area may work with patients who have corneal dystrophies, inflammation, microbial infections, or a tumor of the conjunctiva or cornea. These specialists commonly perform corneal refractive and corneal transplant surgeries.
This particular subspecialty focuses on treating glaucoma and disorders that increase intraocular pressure or damage the optic nerve to cause ophthalmic disorders. It includes medical as well as surgical management of patients with glaucoma and related conditions.
This subspecialty combines knowledge about neurological and ophthalmic conditions, such as damage to the optic nerve that disrupts visual ability. Ophthalmologists in this area usually work with non-surgical techniques, although eye and orbit surgery may sometimes be the most appropriate option.
This subspecialty deals with medical as well as surgical care of patients with ocular cancer. Ophthalmologists working in this area may be responsible for the processing and explanation of pathology specimens of the eye to guide treatment decisions.
Oculoplastics and Orbit Surgery
This subspecialty is focused on the ophthalmic plastic surgery techniques, such as orbital surgery, upper facial reconstructions, and cosmetic lid surgery. Ophthalmologists working in this area are usually trained to use chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and chemosurgery when required in the management of orbital and ocular disease.
This subspecialty deals with both ophthalmology and pathology, which provides a unique blend of skills that are useful to examine tissue samples of the eye and adnexa and make an appropriate diagnosis.
This subspecialty is focused on the management of ocular conditions that affect children. This commonly includes strabismus or misalignment of the eyes, amblyopia, genetic abnormalities, and neoplastic disorders. Ophthalmologists working in this area may also work with ocular manifestations associated with underlying systemic disorders.
Uveitis and Immunology
This specialization is based on inflammation of the iris, ciliary body, or choroid of the eye due to immune-mediated ocular conditions. Ophthalmologists working in this area have specific knowledge about ocular immunomodulatory therapy. They also often work in collaboration with specialists of rheumatology or immunology.
Also sometimes known as posterior segment or retinal ophthalmology, this subspecialty deals with medical as well as surgical management of retinal and vitreoretinal diseases. They may use laser therapy, vitrectomy, cryotherapy, and retinal detachment surgery to treat these conditions.
Reviewed by Susha Cheriyedath, MSc