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.

This page provides useful information on the nature of the work, the common procedures/interventions, sub-specialties and other roles that may interest you.

Female ophthalmologist checking eye

Nature of the work

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

Ophthalmology is a mixed medical and surgical specialty. There are many diverse ophthalmological problems encountered in the UK, particularly in an increasingly aged population. Ophthalmology practice is very diverse, dealing with a variety of issues and clinical conditions.

Common conditions encountered include:

Ophthalmologists also manage patients with the following conditions:

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 not 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:

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.

In the foreseeable future, community or primary care ophthalmologists will increasingly carry out routine procedures and treatments. This will allow patients with more complex problems requiring specialised services and expensive technology to be treated by hospital-based ophthalmologists.


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:

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