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What does an Orthoptist do?

By L. Hepfer
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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An orthoptist works directly with an ophthalmologist and their patients, specializing in eye movement abnormalities. People who suffer from a lazy eye or crossed eyes need medical treatment to correct their situation. Orthoptists are trained specifically to help those suffering from these abnormalities.

An orthoptist assists an ophthalmologist by performing tests to determine the severity of the abnormality, and how well the patient can see in their current condition. Depending on the severity, treatment may be something as simple as using eye drops, wearing eyeglasses, or wearing an eye patch. Sometimes, the patient may need to undergo therapy to gain control of the eye movement, and strengthen the eye muscles. The most severe cases require surgery that is not performed by the orthoptist, but rather an ophthalmologist.

This line of work may have training available that specializes in working in one age group in particular. For instance, an orthoptist may prefer to work solely with pediatric patients who were born with their eye abnormalities, or they may wish to work with adults who have suffered head injuries and are visually impaired as a result. Whatever the age preference may be, an orthoptist must be interested in working with people and their eyes.

They must work well with people and have great communication skills, creating confidence in the patient. Eye injuries and abnormalities create highly stressful situations for the patient, and a good orthoptist must have the ability to calm them, giving them hope in getting better, and building their confidence to help themselves. Orthoptists use therapy on the patients in the office, but they must be able to teach them the exercises needed for the patient to practice at home to speed their healing process. They must possess a great deal of patience when working with children as children are generally frightened when it comes to someone being in or near their eyes. It is essential to not only calm the child, but also to reassure them that everything is going to be okay.

Orthoptists generally work in an ophthalmologist's office, or in a clinic solely geared toward eye care. However, they may be required to travel from office to office, depending on the job description and each individual patient's need. To become an orthoptist, it is necessary to attend college and obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree or a Bachelor of Science degree. Two years of training in a program accredited through the American Orthoptic Council (AOC) is needed after college, requiring the orthoptist to pass a written examination before getting a job.

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