What is orthoptics?
The word orthoptics comes from the Greek ortho (straight) and optikos (vision). Orthoptics is a specialized field in ophthalmology that deals with binocular vision (the use of both eyes together) and very specific eye problems such as:
- Amblyopia (reduced visual development in one or both eyes)
- Strabismus (crossing or misalignment of the eyes)
- Diplopia (double vision)
- Various other binocular vision disorders
What is a Certified Orthoptist?
Certified Orthoptists are allied health professionals who specialize in the study of orthoptics, including ocular motility (eye muscle movements) and visual development. Orthoptists evaluate and manage patients under the direction of an ophthalmologist—though the ophthalmologist may not examine the patient at every visit. They perform specialized diagnostic eye tests to measure and assess defective binocular vision or abnormal eye movement in patients. They also assist in interpreting the results of the tests and forming treatment plans. Using specialized examination techniques, the orthoptist will:
- Evaluate vision
- Obtain measurements of eye position and alignment
- Aid in the diagnosis and non-surgical treatment of binocular vision disorders
- Help treat double vision through use of prisms or other modalities
- Provide eye exercises for applicable muscle disorders
- Assist in patient education
- Participate in clinical research, teaching and scientific publication
Orthoptists serve patients of all ages, but because of the nature of many binocular disorders, the majority of patients are children—this is why most orthoptists work closely with a pediatric ophthalmologist.
Orthoptics and training at OHSU
The Orthoptic Training Program at OHSU is located in the Elks Children's Eye Clinic of the Casey Eye Institute. The majority of the patients are examined in the Pediatric Ophthalmology and Adult Strabismus Service. Teaching is carried out by staff orthoptists and ophthalmologists, as well as many other department faculty. The Orthoptic Training Program at OHSU is one of less than 20 nationwide in a much needed and growing field of medicine.
Students interested in a career in orthoptics must have earned a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university. Advanced standing or placements testing will be considered for those with prior experience or certification in a relevant field (i.e. ophthalmic technicians).
A 24 month training period combines lecture and research of theoretical orthoptics as well as clinical experience. Students work under the direct supervision of a certified orthoptist and an ophthalmologist. The student is provided with a basic foundation upon which he or she may build to the fullest extent of his or her capability and willingness.
Initially, an introduction to the structures and functions of the eye and physiology of eye movements is given. Specific subject matter includes: anatomy and physiology of the eye, neuroanatomy, optics, basic ocular pharmacology, diagnostic tests, differential diagnosis, and an introduction to the principles of general ophthalmology. Patient examination begins with supervised preliminary testing and expands as the student gains the necessary level of ability and proficiency.
After completion of 24 months of orthoptic training, with recommendation of the director of training, a student is eligible to sit for the National board exam offered by the American Orthoptic Council (www.orthoptics.org). The exam is two parts: a written board examination (usually done locally) and an oral/practical board examination given to all eligible candidates in September or October at one central location in the US. A fee is charged for these examinations. Candidates who demonstrate proficiency on both written and oral/practical sections of the examination are awarded the title of Certified Orthoptist.
Dusty Gronemyer, C.O. - Program Director
Lorri Wilson, M.D. - Medical Director