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What is ophthalmology?

Ophthalmology is a branch of medicine dealing with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases of the eye and visual system.

The eye, its surrounding structures and the visual system can be affected by a number of clinical conditions. Ophthalmology involves diagnosis and therapy of such conditions, along with microsurgery.

Eye health services are becoming more and more important as the UK population ages. An ageing population means there are more and more incidences of age-related diseases of the eye, such as age-related macular degeneration. These eye diseases can be successfully treated if caught early, and can be managed effectively with existing treatments and medicines.

Cataracts are the main cause of impaired vision worldwide, and in England and Wales it is estimated that around 2.5 million people aged 65 or older have some degree of visual impairment caused by cataracts. Cataract surgery is the second most common operation performed in the NHS in England – over 300,000 procedures are performed each year.

Patients and members of the general public can view more information about eye conditions and treatments in our ‘For Patients‘ section.

If you are in medical training and thinking of choosing ophthalmology as a specialism, visit our training section or download our short guide to a career in ophthalmology in the UK.