Nature of the work
Medical ophthalmology or ophthalmic medicine
is a holistic specialty which provides specific expertise in the
diagnosis and medical treatment of people with disorders of vision.
More than 50% of new ophthalmic referrals present with a medical
rather than a surgical problem so medicine comprises a large
proportion of the workload of any eye department.
Working in medical ophthalmology
The workload of an ophthalmic physician is
very varied and consists of the management of the main causes of
permanent, but increasingly treatable, causes of visual impairment
in the United Kingdom:
- inflammatory disorders affecting vision (e.g.
uveitis, thyroid eye disease, systemic vasculitis)
- neurolological disorders affecting vision
(e.g. multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, pituitary
- retina-specific disorders affecting vision
(e.g. age-related macular degeneration)
- vascular disorders affecting vision (e.g.
diabetes, diabetic retinopathy screening, stroke,
- genetic disorders affecting vision (e.g.
Medical ophthalmology is an emerging medical
specialty in the United Kingdom. In the future it is expected there
will be one ophthalmic physician per 263,000 of the population. The
Royal College of Ophthalmologists’ survey, Demand for Medical
Ophthalmology, found that many units wished to have an
ophthalmic physician to enable them to deliver effective care.
Therapeutic procedures performed by ophthalmic
physicians include laser for diabetic retinopathy, intraocular
injections of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor agents for
age-related macular degeneration, diagnostics taps of the anterior
segment and vitreous for ocular infection and botulinum injections
for facial dystonias. Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor
agents have revolutionised the treatment of age-related macular
degeneration. They are likely to do the same for diabetic
retinopathy and other vascular retinopathies.
Associated sub specialties
There are no associated sub-specialties of
medical ophthalmology. However, ophthalmic physicians work closely
with specialists in ophthalmology, dermatology, endocrinology and
diabetes, infectious diseases, medical genetics, neurology,
neurosurgery, rheumatology and stroke medicine.