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Ophthalmology Subspecialties

This information is provided from the American Academy of Ophthalmology website:

Cornea and External Disease

This subspecialty involves the diagnosis and management of diseases of the cornea, sclera, conjunctiva and eyelids, including corneal dystrophies, microbial infections, conjunctival and corneal tumors, inflammatory processes and anterior ocular manifestations of systemic diseases. Training in this area frequently includes corneal transplant surgery and corneal surgery to correct refractive errors.


This subspecialty includes the treatment of glaucoma and other disorders that may cause optic nerve damage by increasing intraocular pressure. This area involves the medical and surgical treatment of both pediatric and adult patients.


Involving the relationship between neurologic and ophthalmic diseases, neuro-ophthalmology also deals with local pathology affecting the optic nerve and visual pathways. Over 50 percent of all intracranial lesions involve the visual or oculomotor pathways. Neuro-ophthalmology is generally practiced as a nonsurgical subspecialty but can be combined with surgery of the eye and orbit.

Ophthalmic Pathology

The ophthalmic pathologist has training in both ophthalmology and pathology, typically in that order. Because of the unique combination of skills involved in this subspecialty, it is usually the ophthalmic pathologist, rather than the general pathologist, who examines tissue specimens from the eye and adnexa.

Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery

The specialty of ophthalmology includes oculofacial plastic surgery. This combines orbital and periocular surgery with facial plastic surgery and includes the clinical practice of aesthetic plastic and reconstructive surgery of the face, orbit, eyelid, and lacrimal system. With this unique combination of skills ophthalmologists perform facial plastic surgery, eyelid surgery, orbital surgery and lacrimal surgery.

Pediatric Ophthalmology

The bulk of pediatric ophthalmic practice involves the medical and surgical management of strabismus, amblyopia, genetic and developmental abnormalities and a wide range of inflammatory, traumatic and neoplastic conditions occurring in the first two decades of life. This subspecialty also deals with the ocular manifestations of certain systemic disorders.

Vitreoretinal Diseases

This subspecialty involves both the medical and surgical treatment of retinal and vitreoretinal disease. The types of diseases treated include manifestations of local, systemic and genetic diseases as they affect the retina and vitreous. Diagnosis involves the use and interpretation of ultrasound, fluorescein angiography and electrophysiology. Treatment methods include laser therapy, cryotherapy, retinal detachment surgery and vitrectomy (removal of the vitreous).

Additional fellowships are sometimes provided in the following areas without being formal sub-specialties within ophthalmology:

Ocular Oncology

This fellowship provides experience in the diagnosis and management of ocular tumors, including surgical management of orbit and eyelid tumors and the use of radiotherapy and chemotherapy in the treatment of eye cancer.

Ocular Immunology and Uveitis

This fellowship is devoted to the medical and surgical management of uveitis and related ocular inflammatory diseases. This includes the treatment and management of uveitis, scleritis, immune-mediated ocular surface disease such as mucous membrane pemphigoid, infectious uveitides, and the ocular complications of AIDS. Surgical experience includes placement of fluocinolone and ganciclovir implants, and cataract surgery in patients with uveitis.