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Eye Facts

What is Orthoptics?

by Zoe Drew 30 May 2022
What is Orthoptics?

You may have seen us talk about Orthoptics in the EyeHub and be wondering, what is this specialty, what do Orthoptists do and how are they different from Optometrists? Well, to celebrate Orthoptics Awareness Week we're going to tell you! 

What is Orthoptics?

Orthoptics is a specialty that focuses on the diagnosis and non-surgical management of eye movement disorders and vision impairments that are related to how the eyes work with the brain.

Traditionally the profession helped patients with eye movement disorders such as Strabismus (squint), Ansiometropia (long sightedness, short sightedness and astigmatisms) and Amblyopia (curious eye) however, the industry has evolved to care for patients with other eye diseases such as Cataracts, Glaucoma, Retinoblastoma, low vision and so much more. 

Orthoptics is all about helping people with vision impairments have a better quality of life.

How do you become an Orthoptist?

To become an Orthoptist in Australia, you must complete a bachelor degree at either La Trobe University or UTS. There is also the option for graduates to continue their study and get a masters degree or complete a PhD by contributing to the industry with a research project. The profession has one of the highest education standards in the world and to complete the degree you have to study;

  • Eye Anatomy & Physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Optics and refraction
  • Eye conditions and diagnostics
  • Patient-centred care
  • Paediatric Eye Care
  • Low Vision

Where do Orthoptists work?

You can find orthoptists working in hospitals, private practices, rehabilitation centres, community health centres, research centres and universities. They might work independently, with a team of other orthoptists or other eye care professionals. If you're looking for an orthoptist in your area, you can search on this website.

You might also find orthoptists, like our founder Maddy, creating innovative business online to help make vision care fun and accessible to everyone. Check out Maddy's story below.

How is Orthoptics different from other eye professions?

Orthoptists have additional training in how to use specialty equipment and develop management programs for people with different vision impairments. They might instruct a patient with Amblyopia to wear patches for a few hours a day to strengthen their curious eye or help a patient with Ansiometropia by prescribing glasses that counteract their short-sightedness (near), long-sightedness (far) or astigmatism (eye shaped like a football).

This profession differs from optometry, which focuses on giving advice to people with vision impairments, prescribing and fitting glasses. If an optometrist detects eye disease in a patient, they will often refer them on to an Ophthalmologists, who provide further treatment and management.  

Ophthalmologists are medical doctors with extra training in diagnosing and treating vision impairments. Ophthalmologists are different from Orthoptists in that they can prescribe medication and perform surgery to help treat their patients vision needs.

If you want to learn more about the profession, head to Orthoptics Australia, an organisation that strives for excellence in eye health care by promoting education, supporting orthoptists in the industry and improving patient care in the community.

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