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Ophthalmologists or eye specialists, are physicians who diagnose and treat diseases of the eye, including glaucoma and cataracts, as well as vision problems such as near-sightedness, and eye injuries.

Most ophthalmologists practice a combination of medicine and surgery, ranging from lens prescription and standard medical treatment to the most delicate and precise surgical manipulations.

They can prescribe medicine, contact lenses and lenses for eyeglasses. Sometimes they recommend eye exercises.

As a result of a number of recent scientific and technological advances, ophthalmology offers possibilities for diagnostic and therapeutic precision that are unavailable in many other medical and surgical fields. These advances have resulted in the development of a number of subspecialties, and provide the ophthalmologist with a wide range of clinical and research opportunities. Areas of specialisation in this field include corneal problems, glaucoma, neuro-ophthalmology, ophthalmic pathology, paediatric ophthalmology and vitreoretinal diseases.

Optometrists and family doctors often refer patients with serious eye conditions to ophthalmologists. Because of their extensive training, ophthalmologists can often link eye problems to other disorders because of the fact that many systemic diseases, such as brain tumours, diabetes and multiple sclerosis have ocular manifestations, that is, symptoms that can be detected in the eye.

Ophthalmologists use a variety of instruments, including ophthalmoscopes, which enable them to see the inner part of the eye. Because the eye is so small, ophthalmologists usually operate with the aid of microscopes and magnifying lenses to enable them to do their work with great precision.

Most ophthalmologists work in private practice, in their offices and in operating rooms. Emergencies are rare, so ophthalmologists work more regular hours than general medical practitioners. Ophthalmologists are required to keep abreast of new developments in their field so they often have to spend time studying, doing research and attending seminars.

Satisfying Aspects
- being able to help those with serious eyesight problems
- opportunity to set your own working hours
- opportunity to establish your own practice
- very specialised work
- being part of an important, respected profession

Demanding aspects
- having to be on call over weekends and holidays, for emergencies
- sometimes having to work with difficult or unpleasant people
- stressful working environment
- requires many years of study to qualify
- having to keep up with advances in the field

- compassionate and understanding
- enjoy doing precision work with your hands
- have a desire to help others
- good hand-eye coordination
- tactful and disciplined
- good depth perception
- excellent coordination

School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course

Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements.

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Sciences
Recommended Subjects: Life Sciences

Note: Competition to enter medical studies is stiff and there are usually many applicants with excellent grades who naturally would be given preference.

MBChB degree at UP, UCT, UFS, Wits, US, UL, UKZN:
- Theoretical training: 6 years
- Student internship: 1 year
- Practical work at a hospital: 1 year (also known as the house doctor year).

Post-graduate study for specialisation as an ophthalmologist: 3 - 5 years - e.g. UFS, US, UL, Wits, UP.

Additional Requirements: before commencing post-graduate study for specialisation as an ophthalmologist, the candidate must:

- be in possession of a MBChB degree for 2 years
- be registered as a medical doctor with the Interim Medical and Dental Council (IMDC) of South Africa for 1 year.

Registration: on successful completion of the examination to qualify as a specialist, the candidate must register with the IMDC as an ophthalmologist.

- schools of optometry at universities
- general and private hospitals
- eye clinics
- private practice

Ophthalmology Society of South Africa (OSSA)
P O Box 56184
Arcadia, 0007
Tel and Fax: (012) 343-8918

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA)
P O Box 205
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 338-9300
Fax: (012) 328-5120