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Oculoplastic surgery is a type of plastic surgery for the eye. Surgeries that fit in this category may be performed for cosmetic or corrective reasons. Unlike other types of eye surgeries, oculoplastic surgery focuses on the area around the eyes instead of the structures of the eyeball. For example, eyelid surgery is a type of oculoplastic surgery, while cataract surgery is not.
The person who performs oculoplastic surgery is called an oculoplastic surgeon. Oculoplastic surgeons complete the necessary schooling to become ophthalmologists, or medical doctors who treat eye-related conditions, but then go on to receive additional specialty training in plastic surgery. An oculoplastic surgeon is qualified to work on both the eye itself and its surrounding tissues. He focuses, however, on the tissues that surround and support the eyeball.
To prepare to become an oculoplastic surgeon, a person may have to spend about 14 years in training. College and medical school account for the first eight years. After that, the aspiring surgeon spends about six years completing an internship, residency and fellowship, which is advanced training for which the person receives a stipend.
Eyelid surgery is a type of cosmetic oculoplastic surgery. It involves removing extra fat and skin from the eyelid area, helping to correct droopy eyelids. For upper eyelid surgery, the incisions are made in the natural creases of the eyelid, making any scarring difficult to notice. With lower eyelid surgery, some of the incisions are made on the inner part of the eyelid. These are not noticeable at all.
Sometimes oculoplastic surgery is used to repair or correct a condition that affects the area around the eye. For example, a condition called entropion is marked by an eyelid that turns inward. The condition typically develops because the muscles that support a person’s eyelids have become weaker due to aging, scarring, or other conditions. To correct it, an oculoplastic surgeon turns the eyelid back outward and tightens the muscles that have grown too weak.
In some cases, oculoplastic surgery is used to reconstruct tissues surrounding the eye that have been lost or damaged in some way. For example, if a person has skin cancer that involves the eyelid, removing a large tumor may result in the loss of a significant portion of the eyelid. In such a case, an oculoplastic surgeon may reconstruct the missing eyelid tissue. This involves taking skin from another part of the patient’s body and attaching it to the wounded part of the patient’s face.