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Ophthalmology: General Ophthalmology

The visual system has fascinated mankind since ancient times. In fact, many consider sight to be the most important of the senses. Approximately half of our brain structure is dedicated to processing vision, and the loss of vision can have devastating effects on a patient.

Ophthalmology is a specialty within medicine dedicated to the study of the eyes and vision. It is one of the oldest medical specialties, dating back to about the fifth century B.C.

In more modern times, ophthalmology was the first branch of medicine to offer board-certified physicians, with the founding of the American Board of Ophthalmology in 1917. All of the faculty physicians at UF Health Ophthalmology at Jacksonville have completed four years of medical school and a residency in ophthalmology.

Additionally, all faculty have gone on to complete subspecialty training within ophthalmology. These subspecialty areas include diseases of the retina, neuro-ophthalmology, cornea, strabismus, oculoplastics, and glaucoma. All ophthalmologists at UF Health Ophthalmology–Jacksonville practice general ophthalmology in addition to their areas of subspecialty training. Therefore, patients have the benefit of seeing a subspecialist even for their routine eye care. General ophthalmology practice includes not only checking vision, but screening for common ocular diseases such as cataract, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and hypertensive retinopathy. It also includes the medical treatment of common eye disorders such as glaucoma, dry eye, infections, allergies and trauma. Most of the UF ophthalmologists at UF Health Jacksonville perform cataract surgery in addition to their specialty surgeries.

The core mission of general ophthalmology is preventing vision loss. Much of the exam is centered on screening for signs of ocular or systemic disease that may lead to vision loss. Since vision is so important, routine general ophthalmology exams should be a part of everyone’s health care.

Services

University of Florida ophthalmologists provide services at the state-of-the-art UF Health Ophthalmology–Jacksonville facilities. Our highly trained physicians treat many conditions of the eye, including:


Evaluation and Diagnosis

Early diagnosis and treatment of ocular diseases can be of great benefit when it comes to preserving vision. It is recommended that all adults undergo routine ocular screening exams.

Any patient with known risk factors for eye disease, including systemic diseases that can affect the eye or a family history of eye disease, should undergo an eye exam to determine if they are at risk for ocular disease.

It is recommended that adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease get a baseline eye exam at age 40. Based on this exam, and any associated risk factors, the ophthalmologist can recommend appropriate follow-up exam intervals.

Seniors age 65 and older should have complete eye exams every one to two years to check for cataracts, glaucoma, and retina or macular diseases.

During the eye exam, the following are assessed:

  • Central vision
  • Examination of the front of the eye, including the cornea, iris and lens
  • Examination of the back of the eye, including the retina, macula and optic nerve
  • Eyelid function and appearance
  • Eye muscle function
  • Intraocular pressure
  • Peripheral vision
  • Pupil reaction to light

If any abnormalities are noted or suspected, they will be discussed with the patient and appropriate recommendations offered.

Frequently Asked Questions

My eyes feel fine, why do I need to see an eye doctor?

Unfortunately many diseases that affect the eye develop so slowly and painlessly that patients may not be aware they have a problem. Some of these diseases are irreversible, common examples being glaucoma and macular degeneration. Once the vision is lost, it cannot be returned fully. Therefore, even if your eyes feel fine, routine eye exams are important.

Why does the pupil need to be dilated during my exam?

For most eye exams, the ophthalmologist will want the eye dilated. This allows the physician to see into the eye with special lens. Without dilation, the pupil may be too small to make an accurate diagnosis for the patient. A dilated exam allows for more complete examination of the optic nerve, retina and vitreous. The dilation usually lasts about four to six hours.

What kind of eye diseases run in families?

If you have a family history of vision loss or eye disease, routine screening exams may be very important to your visual health. Common eye diseases that run in families include corneal degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, retinal degeneration, and optic nerve disease.

How can systemic diseases affect my eyes?

The eyes and visual system are part of the human body, so systemic diseases can affect the eye. The list of systemic diseases that can affect the eyes is very long, but common diseases include diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, arthritis, lupus erythematosus, sickle cell disease, sarcoid, atherosclerosis, multiple sclerosis and giant cell arteritis. One of the most common systemic diseases to affect the body is diabetes. High blood sugar most typically causes vision loss from damaging the retina, but it can also cause early cataracts. Interestingly, the ophthalmologist may often be the first to diagnosis some of these systemic diseases during routine eye exams.


Treatment Options

If a problem is noted with the visual system or eyes, the ophthalmologist will usually discuss the possible diagnosis and treatment options during the appointment. Depending on the ocular disease, treatment options may include medications, laser treatment or even surgery. Sometimes further testing is required for diagnosis and determining optimal treatment. This may include retina imaging studies, retina blood flow studies, ultrasound studies or visual field testing, among others.

Treatment options will vary widely and are based on the disease process affecting the eyes. The most common abnormalities affecting the eyes are cataract, dry eye, glaucoma and macular degeneration. Sometimes, a patient may need referral to an ophthalmologic subspecialist for advanced care recommendations and treatments.