What is an ophthalmologist?

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An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing, treating, preventing and managing all types of disorders related to the eye and the visual system. Ophthalmology is a mixed medical and surgical specialty, requiring much educational and work experience before you can become fully certified.

Job description

As an ophthalmologist, your patients can encompass the entire age range, from premature babies and toddlers to geriatrics.

Common conditions you will diagnose and treat in this role include:

  • Major and minor eye injuries: superficial injuries to the eye
  • Cataracts: loss of transparency in the eye lens
  • Glaucoma: increased fluid pressure in the eye
  • Intraocular inflammation: inflammation inside of the eye
  • Corneal pathology: diseases of the cornea, the thin transparent part of the eye that forms the front of the eyeball
  • Other retinal problems: bleeding or detachment of the retina

Ophthalmologists are also trained to perform eye surgeries, which may be done with the help of microscopes and lasers. Technological advances have vastly improved ophthalmic surgeries in the past decade, and patients with eye conditions that were previously irreparable can now be managed very effectively. It also means that continued education will form a large part of your career progression as you will have to keep up with the latest advancements in the field.

Types of surgery include: cataract surgery (the most commonly performed surgery with a high success rate), glaucoma surgery, corneal transplantation and corrective surgery for various retinal disorders.

As an ophthalmologist, there are several opportunities for further specialisation in areas such as neuro-ophthalmology, vitreoretinal diseases, paediatric ophthalmology, cornea and external diseases, glaucoma or ophthalmic pathology.

Education and training requirements

If you want to be an ophthalmologist in the UK, you must first complete a medical degree in a course of study recognised by the General Medical Council (GMC). Then, you need to go through a two-year foundation programme for general training and finally, specialist training in the field of ophthalmology itself.

Explore the many benefits of a career in ophthalmology

Ophthalmologists enjoy a great lifestyle. Because many eye conditions are not life-threatening, the work-life balance is ideal. In this role, you will rarely need to always be on call or work long hours. In private practice you would generally be able to set your own work hours.

Technology in the field of ophthalmology has seen many great advances in the past few years. With many novel tools and techniques, the field is always exciting and interesting.

Ophthalmologists have complete control over the eye. In most cases, there will be very little need for your patients to see any other type of doctor, which is great for somebody who prefers working alone. Many other fields of medicine require the combined efforts of a general practitioner (GP), sub-specialist and other medical professionals to treat a single condition.

The eye is beautiful. If you find it intriguing and appealing to be able to examine and treat many different types of eyes daily, then ophthalmology is the career for you.

Volunteering and work experience can give you great insight into this career

There are numerous organisations that provide eye care services to underserviced communities around the world. Volunteering with these organisations is a great way to understand the impact of the work that an ophthalmologist does.

Another great opportunity to get brilliant observation experience in this field is by doing a medical placement in a developing country, where ophthalmologists do remarkable work with minimum facilities.

 

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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives, and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.

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