What is Ophthalmology?

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Ophthalmology refers to the field of medicine that studies and treats disorders and diseases of the eye. If you have been experiencing problems with your eyesight, or sustain an injury in or near the eye, or you have another medical condition that affects your vision (such as thyroid disease, diabetes, or certain types of cancer), chances are you will be sent to see an ophthalmologist at some point for treatment.

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor with a speciality in the anatomy and physiology of both the eye itself and the areas around it, including everything from the eye sockets to the eyelids to the optic nerve that connects the eye to the brain and forms part of the central nervous system. As highly trained consultants, ophthalmologists are qualified to do everything from prescribing eyeglasses to performing highly specialised micro-surgery like LASIK, corneal replacement or even providing patients with artificial eyes.

Indeed, ophthalmology requires years of study and training though medical school and post-graduate study. What’s more, it was the first branch of medicine to set standards of proficiency, known as board certifications, which are now required in all areas of medicine.

Ophthalmology offers sub-specialty areas as well, such as paediatric ophthalmology, plastic or reconstructive surgery (known as oculoplastics), or ocular oncology. The Ophthalmology Department within a hospital or clinic will often comprise multi-disciplinary teams including optometrists, nurses, and other specialist physicians, for example, to provide you with a full scope of resources, depending on your needs. While ophthalmology specialises in the visual system, the doctor and the ophthalmology team treat the whole person, taking into account other diseases or conditions that could be causing problems with your vision, as well as any mental or emotional concerns a patient may have as the result of coping with a disease or vision loss.

When to see an ophthalmologist

If you are experiencing disturbances in, or loss of, vision you should see an ophthalmologist for a thorough eye examination. Such symptoms include:

  • a dark curtain or veil
  • blurry or double vision
  • halos or a glare effect
  • floaters (the perception of bits of debris in your field of vision)
  • excessive tearing or dryness
  • cysts or skin problems around the eye
  • persistent headache
  • pain in or around the eye

An optometrist can do an eye exam as well, but if you are already having symptoms, the eye clinic or ophthalmology department at a hospital can do the exam, then make a diagnosis, and recommend and begin treatment. Your ophthalmology team will take a full medical history, and ask you about your symptoms. Please note, if you are having severe and sudden pain or loss of vision, you should go directly to A&E as these could be signs of something requiring urgent care.

Even if you’re not having symptoms, you should book an appointment anyway. Ophthalmologists and other eye professionals can spot issues well before you notice anything is wrong, and work to provide you with a treatment plan – ideally before the condition can become more serious. Find an eye doctor you trust, one who is trained, experienced, and board-certified, and have your eyes checked regularly.

This content is proudly brought to you by Moorfields eye Hospital in Dubai.