About Orthoptics

What is an orthoptist?

Orthoptists are key members of the eye care team that you may see in hospitals, clinics and schools. They assess and manage a range of eye problems, mainly those affecting the way the eyes move (such as squint or amblyopia). Orthoptics is one of what are known as allied health professions: its practitioners work alongside medical staff to provide a range of diagnostic, therapeutic and direct patient care.

This might involve prescribing eye exercises or referral for spectacle lenses or eye surgery. Orthoptists use special equipment to measure the pressure inside the eye, to assess the patient's field of vision and to carry out other testing procedures.

In some clinics, orthoptists work with ophthalmologists in helping to manage conditions such as glaucoma. Regulated in the UK by the HCPC, Orthoptists are recognised as experts in childhood vision screening, and have a lead role in the primary screening of children aged four to five years. The majority of orthoptists in the UK are employed in the NHS.

How do orthoptists, ophthalmologists and optometrists differ?

They are all professionally trained people who treat those with ophthalmic or eye problems.

  • Orthoptists diagnose and treat defects of vision and abnormalities of eye movement and now all have a first degree on entering the profession. They are usually part of a hospital team looking after people with eye problems especially those related to binocular vision, amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (squint).
  • Ophthalmologists are medically trained and have specialist training in matters relating to the human eye. They examine, diagnose and treat diseases and injuries of the eye. They can prescribe a wide range of medicines, perform eye surgery and typically work in the Hospital Eye Service.
  • Optometrists examine eyes, give advice on visual problems and prescribe and fit glasses or contact lenses. They are usually employed in the high street but may also work in the Hospital Eye Service.