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.
UF Health Ophthalmology physicians have all completed subspecialty training within ophthalmology. These subspecialty areas include diseases of the retina, neuro-ophthalmology, strabismus, oculoplastics, and glaucoma. Therefore, patients have the benefit of seeing a subspecialist even for their routine eye care.
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.
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.
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.
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, such as 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. The dilation usually lasts about four to six hours.
What kind of eye diseases are hereditary?
If you have a family history of vision loss or eye disease, routine screening exams are important to your visual health. Common hereditary eye diseases include corneal degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, retinal degeneration and optic nerve disease.
How can systemic diseases affect my eyes?
Common systemic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, arthritis, lupus erythematosus, sickle cell disease, sarcoid, atherosclerosis, multiple sclerosis and giant cell arteritis can affect the eyes. 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. Your ophthalmologist may often be the first to diagnosis some of these systemic diseases during routine eye exams.