Ophthalmologists are medically trained doctors who care for patients who have eye conditions. They manage those with acute and long term eye disease and treat patients of all ages.

Nature of the work:

Ophthalmologists diagnose, treat and prevent disorders of the eyes and visual system.

Ophthalmology is a mixed medical and surgical specialty. Ophthalmology practice is very diverse, dealing with a variety of issues and clinical conditions.

Common conditions encountered include:

  • Corneal pathology (diseases of the cornea, the thin transparent surface that forms the front of the eyeball)
  • Cataracts (where the lens of the eye loses transparency)
  • Glaucoma (where the fluid pressure insides the eyes increases, causing visual problems)
  • Squints (where there is a problem with the alignment of the eyes)
  • Retinal problems (such as oedema within, bleeding, tears or detachment of the retina, the back inner surface of the eye that receives light)
  • Intraocular inflammation (inflammation within the eye)
  • Eye-related neurological problems

Ophthalmologists also manage patients with the following conditions:

  • Major and minor eye injuries
  • Infectious eye disease
  • Chronic diseases of the eye such as diabetic retinopathy (disease affecting the retina caused by diabetes) and age-related macular degeneration (deterioration of the macula, the central area of the retina)

Ophthalmic patients encompass the whole age range, from premature babies to the most senior members of the population. Patients are generally well and their conditions and are only rarely life-threatening. However, eye symptoms and disorders are very common and can cause considerable anxiety. Sympathetic advice and reassurance is often required in addition to diagnosis and treatment.

Ophthalmologists undertake eye surgery, which is usually performed with the aid of an operating microscope and may involve lasers.

Types of surgery include:

  • Cataract surgery – the most frequently performed operation, which is very successful  and provides high patient satisfaction
  • Glaucoma surgery
  • Surgery for retinal disorders
  • Strabismus surgery (for squints)
  • Corneal transplantation
  • Oculoplastic surgery (plastic surgery around the eye)
  • Orbital surgery  (relating to the eye socket)

Ophthalmic surgical procedures have benefited from huge improvements in technology in the last ten to fifteen years, resulting in earlier surgery with vast improvements in patient lifestyle. Further improvements have occurred in the delivery of eye surgery, with most operations dealt with as day cases.

A surge in exciting new technology and treatments in recent years have allowed ophthalmologists to manage patients with eye diseases in a much more effective way, and this trend is likely to continue as services expand.

Sub-specialties

Ophthalmologists can develop sub-specialty interests in a number of different areas. For example, ophthalmologists with a paediatric interest deal with eye development and diseases in children.

Medical retinal specialists deal with retinal disease, including its onset in patients with such diverse conditions as diabetes, age-related macular degeneration, eye disease due to systemic conditions and inherited retinal diseases.

Sub-specialty interests, which can be surgical or non-surgical include:

  • Cornea and anterior segment
  • Medical retina
  • Glaucoma
  • Oculoplastic surgery (plastic surgery around the eye)
  • Paediatric ophthalmology
  • Surgical retina (vitreo-retinal surgeons)
  • Primary care
  • Medical and neuro-ophthalmology