The specialty of ophthalmology offers a unique opportunity for a range of sub-specialisations including paediatrics, neuro-ophthalmology, glaucoma, oculoplastics/orbit, vitreo-retinal, cornea & anterior segment, refraction, ocular oncology, trauma, and medical retina.

Ophthalmology is a fast-paced and exciting career choice in medicine, and a specialty which has experienced rapid advances in new treatments and technologies over the past two decades. A significant proportion of sight threatening conditions which previously had a poor prognosis for patients are now largely preventable with early diagnosis and treatment, making ophthalmology an extremely rewarding area of medicine for doctors to care for their patients in.

The advent of new therapies which are enabling greater prevention and management of eye diseases in tandem with evolving patient demographics have increased the demand for the skills and competencies of ophthalmologists. Ophthalmic practice is an innovative specialty and frequently adapts and implements new and emerging technologies such as imaging techniques, laser, the use of intraocular lenses and stents.

Surgical ophthalmologists perform microsurgical intraocular operations such as cataract extraction surgery or retinal detachment repair surgery. Most surgical ophthalmologists perform cataract surgery as well as sub specialising in another area. Although the eye is a very small organ there are numerous subspecialties in ophthalmology.

Given the frequency of ocular involvement in many systemic diseases, ophthalmologists often work in close collaboration with other specialists including diabetologists, rheumatologists, neurologists, ENT and maxillo-facial surgeons as well as paediatricians, general practitioners and geneticists.

In the last decade ophthalmology has seen a vast expansion in medical treatments that has driven ophthalmology practice to become more medically based, allowing us to address the areas of greatest patient demand particularly in the specialties of medical retina, glaucoma and paediatric ophthalmology.

In 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, the work is very rewarding. The majority of cases of blindness are reversible and treatable through early diagnosis and intervention, including those medical in nature.

Over the next 20 years Ireland will see a significant increase in both older patients and those with diabetes and therefore, the number of medical ophthalmologists required to treat these patients is also increasing.

There has been significant investment in the specialty in recent years due to demand for specialists in this area. This will continue with the roll out of the Integrated Eye Care Team and appointment of new Consultant Medical Ophthalmologist posts nationally.

Medical Ophthalmology is predominately an out-patient based specialty with a varied work-load including laser sessions, minor-op sessions, and injection sessions while incorporating new technological and ophthalmic advances, including the development of Integrated Eye Care Teams.

Consultant Medical Ophthalmologists lead and work as part of the team which also includes ophthalmic nurses, orthoptists, optometrists and ophthalmic technicians.

Ophthalmologists also work closely with public health specialists to support the early detection and prevention of avoidable slight loss through the National Screening programme for children’s vision and for diabetic retinopathy.

There has been significant investment in the specialty in recent years and this will continue with the national roll out of the Integrated Eye Care Team and the appointment of new consultant medical ophthalmologists.

Key areas of practice:

The National Training Programme in medical ophthalmology is the route to qualification and career as a consultant medical ophthalmologist in Ireland.

The medical ophthalmology programme is a six year competence-based curriculum consisting of three basic years (BMT 1-3) followed by 2 years (HMT 4-5*) of subspecialty training.

*Extended to three years as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on training and under evaluation.

The National Training Programme in surgical ophthalmology is the route to qualification and career as a consultant surgical ophthalmologist in Ireland.

The surgical programme is a seven-year competence-based curriculum consisting of 3 core years followed by 4 years of subspecialty training