Profile of the Professional Role of the Orthoptist

Orthoptists are part of the wider group of Health Care Professions.

The professional role of the orthoptist has been defined as investigating, diagnosing and treating disorders of ocular motility, monocular and binocular vision and associated disorders.

Today this is still true but the orthoptist requires knowledge of the full range of associated ophthalmic and neurological disorders in order to be competent to carry out their special professional duties not only within the context of the hospital and community eye care teams, but also in rehabilitation and other medical and educational centers.

Orthoptists are mainly concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of squint and other disorders of monocular and binocular vision and eye movement. There is a 3 – 8% incidence of squint and allied conditions in the general population. The incidence is much higher among the physically and mentally handicapped, and orthoptists work closely with paediatricians in the assessment and care of the handicapped child, work which is both demanding and rewarding. Although most patients are children, adults are referred in increasing numbers: the neurologist, neurosurgeon, physician and facial-maxillary surgeon etc. use the orthoptist’s services to assist in the diagnosis of complex disorders of eye movement and visual field loss and to help, patients suffering from double vision. The orthoptist also plays a part in the rehabilitation of elderly patients with defects of monocular and binocular vision. The scope of orthoptic work is widening. Orthoptists carry out the vision screening of infants, children and of the elderly population group. They take an active part in rehabilitation, biometry, electro diagnostic procedures, fundus photography, fluorescein angiography, glaucoma management clinics (including tonometry and visual filed analysis) and other associated procedures.

Some orthoptics are employed as research workers. Careful observation, accuracy and patience are essential in orthoptic work. Patients often attend over long periods of time and the orthoptist must gain their confidence and co-operation in carrying out investigation and treatment. An ability to communicate well is very necessary.

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