Medical ophthalmology focuses on the medical assessment, investigation, diagnosis and management of disorders affecting vision. Conditions covered by this specialty are not simply 'eye diseases', but include broader conditions affecting ophthalmic health.

Inflammatory disorders directly affecting the eye include uveitis, scleritis and corneal graft rejection; the eye can also be affected by systemic vasculitis. Vascular disorders include diabetes, hypertension, arteriosclerosis and stroke. Neurological disorders can be 'eye-specific', eg thyroid eye disease, or broader, eg multiple sclerosis, stroke and pituitary disorders. Other conditions covered include genetic disorders such as retinitis pigmentosa and retina-specific disorders such as age-related macular degeneration. The specialty also covers public visual health, eg diabetic retinopathy screening, visual rehabilitation, and ophthalmic procedures such as laser therapy and local injection therapy.

Medical ophthalmology is an emerging specialty. In the future it is expected that there will be one ophthalmic physician per population of 263,000. Because many conditions addressed by the specialty relate to other areas of medicine, there is a strong interdisciplinary element; specialists work closely with ophthalmic surgeons, physicians from other specialties, nurses, optometrists, orthoptists, and photographers.

Related RCP publications

Specialty training

For information about specialty training in medical ophthalmology, go to the Joint Royal Colleges of Physicians Postgraduate Training Board (JRCPTB) website.

Specialist society

Patient information websites


Commentary Date
Revalidation FAQs 24 September 2012
Webstreamed events Date
Harveian Oration 2012 - Halving premature death (Sir Richard Peto) 18 October 2012
Harveian Oration 2011 18 October 2011