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P T Khaw, P Shah, A R Elkington. London: BMJ Publishing Group, 2004, pp 93; £25. ISBN 0 7279 1659 9.
The ABC of Eyes by consultant ophthalmologist P Shah and professors P T Khaw and A R Elkington and is now one of the most well established introductory textbooks to ophthalmology. Using a symptom based approach that characterises the ABC series, this book comprehensively covers all of the most common complaints in ophthalmology. It owes its success to its renowned simplicity and straightforward explanations, which appeal to the wider audience of readers who are not experts in the field. The fourth edition has been fully updated with an accompanying CD-Rom for those who prefer e-books to printed ones. This new edition continues to describe the ABCs of eyes with superb accomplishment.
The contents of the book begin with an introductory chapter that takes the reader through history taking and examination techniques in ophthalmology, specifying what may be achieved without the use of specialised equipment and when to refer to a specialist. The following chapters describe the diagnosis and management of essential topics like the red eye, trauma, glaucoma, squints, and cataracts. New chapters have been added to this fourth edition—on age related macular degeneration and the global impact of eye disease. Summary tables provide a quick and concise reference to the main text and tip boxes give useful hints that draw from the authors’ wealth of clinical experience. Clinical signs are well illustrated by colour photographs. Complicated microsurgical techniques and physiological mechanisms are effectively explained using clear and understandable diagrams.
The main strength of the book is the authors’ ability to describe complex concepts in simple accessible terms for the professional and the layperson. Since I first used this textbook as a medical student, each successive edition has been improved on and updated without any loss of clarity. This latest edition includes important recent advances in ophthalmology, such as photodynamic therapy for age related macular degeneration. With its comprehensive list of support organisations for those affected by visual impairment in the United Kingdom, this book is also a useful resource for practising ophthalmologists and the general public alike. The authors have also considered the global impact of visual impairment and blindness in their new chapter, a topic that is rapidly gaining increasing recognition with the World Health Organization’s “Vision 2020: the right to sight” initiative to eliminate avoidable blindness by 2020. As a basic reference text to ophthalmology, there is isn’t a topic left uncovered, but this is not a practical manual to help the layperson manage eye disease themselves. Instead, the authors rightly recommend referral to an eye specialist where appropriate.
I have no doubt that there will be future editions of the ABC of Eyes and that the book will continue to maintain its popularity. There is future scope in developing the accompanying CD into a more interactive tool—for example, as an aid to diagnosis.
Overall, this book deserves to be on the shelves of every junior doctor, GP, nurse, and member of the public with an interest in ophthalmology.