Orthoptics is one of the Allied Health Professions, and orthoptists are key members of the eye care team. They assess and manage a range of eye problems, mainly those affecting the way the eyes move (such as squint and lazy eye). This might involve prescribing eye exercises or referring the patient for special spectacle lenses or for eye surgery. They 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. 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.
To see some orthoptics stories that have appeared in the news recently, visit our Orthoptics in the news page.
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The following are patient stories, written in their own words demonstrating what a difference orthoptic treatment can make....
1. Prisms Make a Difference - gaining independence and releasing a hospital bed
I was admitted to hospital with double vision and dizziness. I had several different tests to find out the cause. I was seen by the eye department (the orthoptic department) and had prisms fitted to my glasses. By doing this late afternoon it enabled me to go home instead of staying another day in hospital. This saved my time and a bed which became available for someone else. I have now been to a few outpatients appointments and I have found great care and all my questions answered!
2. The Pianist Makes Music Again
I am a professional pianist, but because of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) I found that I was getting frustrated and angry with myself as I was finding reading music so difficult.
I am taking part in a research trial on AMD at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London. During my visual function test the orthoptist suggested that when I had problems seeing the letters of the chart that I should begin to scan and guess at what I thought the letters were. To my amazement I began to see more letters. He said this would allow me to use my vision better allowing my subconscious brain to see things more easily. I have seen many different eye care professionals, but this was the first time someone seemed to understand the problems that I was experiencing and was able to suggest a way to improve things.
So, I remembered what he said and so started to scan whole phrases of music (perhaps 4 bars of 16 semiquavers). I did not try to read every note but feeling only dimly aware of what I was seeing. It made a fantastic difference. So thank you so much to the orthoptist for this valuable advice.
3. Emma's Story – Single Vision Restored: Giving Independence Back
"I felt compelled to write to you to thank you for the outstanding work that you and you colleagues carry out at the Orthoptic Clinic, King's College Hospital, London.
At my very first meeting, I was diagnosed double vision, had prisms fitted to glasses which allowed single vision, for the first time in 16 months. On subsequent visit, thanks to the sheer determination of your colleague, the prisms were when vision tweaked to allow single vision. I am now able to see in single vision for 80% of the day. This has made such a considerable difference to my life. I can walk short distances without a walking stick and with correct head positioning, can now cross roads with confidence. I can read text clearly and feel more confident when going out – which is considerable difference as for the last 16 months my vision has left me virtually housebound.
Of everything that has happened to me, losing my vision has been the most debilitating. I think we all take our sight for granted, i.e. walking, crossing roads, dog walking, or going to the shop. Double vision had made simple household tasks impossible; pouring a kettle of boiling water, resulted in a scalded right hand. Crowded, busy areas became danger zones, too many hazards and too much disorientation. Therefore I stayed indoors, where I was safe.
In the last 16 months I fell over so many times because I haven’t been able to see kerbs, raised paving slabs, stairs. My glasses create single vision, but they have also allowed me to rebuild my life. A “new life” where I can put the past in the past and concentrate on my “new future”. This is all due to the wonderful work carried out in the department – my only regret is that I didn’t know you existed otherwise I would’ve contacted you earlier, rather than suffering in silence.
You have advised that my vision problem is complex and will take at least 6 months before any results. I know that I now have the support of your department in my rehabilitation, which after 16 months means I no longer need to live in isolation. Thank you for giving me back my life."
About vision strategy in the UK
This document from the Vision 2020 programme tells you what you should expect from eye care and sight loss services in the UK:
BIOS UK Vision Strategy (PDF 200KB)
NHS websites are a great source of information and offer the opportunity to search on your eye health issue of interest.
For example: here's the link for Lazy Eye from NHS Choices: