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Day in the life of an ophthalmic surgeon

The human eye is one of the most complex optical systems known to man. With their over two million working parts, each eye collects light, regulates it, focuses it, and finally converts it into the image you see of the world.

To tinker with this system is not a job for the faint-hearted. And so, despite the average eye being less than two inches across, there is a pretty large group of specialist roles within medicine whose primary job is to study and treat nothing but your eyes.

As you may notice by the names, ophthalmologists, optometrists, and orthoptists are all professions dedicated to optics—the study of light and the instruments used to detect it.

Each one plays an important role in the care and treatment of your eyes and vision. But many are not exactly sure who does what and so often their roles get confused.

The levels of training and expertise, as well as what they’re able to do for you, are some of the best ways to distinguish between the main types of eye specialists.

Here we’re going to explore some of these professions so you have a clearer understanding of who to see and what they can do or you, before looking in some detail at what a day in the life of an ophthalmic surgeon is like.

What is an Ophthalmologist?

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who acts as both a physician—someone who specialises in diagnosis and medical treatment—and a surgeon—someone who performs it with surgery.

Ophthalmologists are all-around eye specialists. They work in the examination, diagnosis, and treatment of irregularities, diseases, and injuries of the eye.

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To get to this stage, you need to undergo extensive training, including five years of medical school training, two years as a qualified doctor, and seven years of ophthalmic specialist training.

After a total of twelve to thirteen years of education and training, ophthalmologists are licensed to practice medicine and surgery. This level of expertise allows them to diagnose and treat a wider range of conditions than optometrists and opticians.

On top of this, ophthalmologists may also be involved in scientific research on the causes and cures for vision problems and eye diseases. Their depth and breadth of training mean they’re also equipped to recognise other health disorders that aren’t directly related to the eye, and to refer patients on to the right medical professionals if necessary.

Ophthalmologist Subspecialists

While ophthalmologists are trained to work with all eye problems and conditions, some specialise further in a particular area.

Such medical professionals who specialise in specific areas are generally known as subspecialists. They typically complete a few years of additional, in-depth training—called a Fellowship—and come out with a high level of understanding on a particular subject or problem.

Some of the main subspecialty areas in eye care include glaucoma, cornea, retina, and Laser Eye Surgery. For example, London’s Western Eye Hospital offers a prestigious one-year fellowship in Cornea and Anterior Segment Pathology and Surgery. While London Vision Clinic, our clinic, offers an 18-month fellowship in Laser Refractive Surgery.

Optometrist

Optometrists are perhaps the most well-known providers of eye care on this list. They provide primary vision care and are the ones who examine your eyes, give advice on vision problems, and prescribe and fit you with glasses or contact lenses.

Optometrists are found both in high street glasses providers and hospitals. Some may also have roles which involve caring for patients with chronic eye conditions.

The typical training route of an optometrist includes three years studying a degree in optometry, one year of experience, and the completion of the Professional Qualifying Examination.

An optometrist is not a medical doctor, but they are licensed to practice optometry. For this reason, optometrists and ophthalmologists often work together as a team.

Orthoptists

Orthoptists are typically part of a hospital care team looking after people who have eye problems and abnormalities of eye movement.

You’re likely to need to see an orthoptist if you have a problem related to binocular vision—conditions like strabismus (squint) and amblyopia (lazy eye). The best place to find information about whether or not you need to see an orthoptist is on the British and Irish Orthoptic Society website.

A day in the life of a specialist ophthalmic surgeon

Now you know what all the different professions actually do, what does a day look like in the life of one of them? And not just any eye care doctor, but one who is a fellow of three sub-speciality regulatory bodies, runs his own clinic, and is among the best in the world at what they do?

Of course, I’m talking about Professor Dan Reinstein, the lead surgeon and founder of London Vision Clinic.

On a typical day, if he isn’t speaking at an international medical conference or out playing the sax, like many other Londoners, Prof Reinstein wakes up early and has breakfast at his family home, where he lives with his wife and four kids.

Also, like many people, Prof Reinstein’s day starts with a rigorous gym session. To combat neck and shoulder tension—an unavoidable side effect of the job—he works with a personal trainer on a specific set of exercises and treatments.

Most of Prof’s day is spent performing surgery and meeting with patients before and after procedures. Thankfully the clinic is just a short walking distance from his home, so he’s able to get fed, showered, dressed, and arrive on Harley Street in no time.

Perhaps the most notable thing about Prof Reinstein’s workday is that he wouldn’t necessarily call it work. Being able to do what he loves and change people’s lives is a delight for him, and as every day is always so different from the next, he never gets tired of it.

To find out more about ophthalmology or to book your consultation, leave us a comment or get in touch with one of our friendly clinic coordinators today.

A day in the life of an ophthalmic surgeon

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