Medical ophthalmology refers to non-surgical general ophthalmology. However, following recent changes to the medical ophthalmology curriculum, the new training pathway allows sub-specialty expertise to be developed in certain areas, such as paediatric, glaucoma and medical retina. Particularly in the latter area of the medical retina, new advances in intraocular injections and laser have revolutionised the treatment of two common sight-threatening conditions, namely age-related macular degeneration and diabetic maculopathy. As these conditions are very responsive to the new therapies, your work will be rewarding in this area. Over the next 20 years, Ireland will see a significant increase in both older patients and people with diabetes. Therefore, the number of medical ophthalmologists required to treat these patients is also expected to increase.
Medical ophthalmologists have varying roles around the country. Once you have successfully completed the medical ophthalmology curriculum, you can take up a post as a community ophthalmic physician, a hospital-based ophthalmic physician or set up a private practice as an independent practitioner. You may also have a public health role, such as running a diabetic screening programme and/or extending eye care to the community.
Surgical ophthalmology refers to ophthalmologists who perform microsurgical intraocular operations, such as cataract extraction surgery or retinal detachment repair surgery. Nearly all surgical ophthalmologists perform cataract surgery and specialise in one of 10 different surgical sub-specialties.
Although the eye is a small organ, there are 10 sub-specialties involved in the practice of surgical ophthalmology:
- Cataract and refractive surgery
- Paediatric ophthalmology
- Corneal and external diseases
- Vitreoretinal surgery
- Orbital/lacrimal disorders
- Ocular oncology