What is Orthoptics / Orthoptist?

Clinical Practice of an Orthoptist  [CO, certified orthoptist]

The small specialty profession of Orthoptics in the allied health/ophthalmic field helps to evaluate and treat patients with disorders of the visual system with an emphasis on binocular vision and eye movements. Orthoptists are uniquely skilled in diagnostic techniques.

Although there are relatively few COs in practice in the United States, with numbers ranging under 400 in the entire country, it is a well established profession within the subspecialty field of ophthalmology. Orthoptists have been working in the United States for over 75 years. COs share a significant role working with ophthalmologists and impact patient care in an important way. 

Many children with a potentially blinding condition called amblyopia will have regained vision due to the involvement of an orthoptist. Additionally, adults with double vision and eye alignment disorders will frequently be assessed by a CO, who will assist the physician in guiding both non-surgical and surgical interventions.

Orthoptists evaluate and work with patients of all ages, but because of the nature of many binocular disorders, many patients are children. Adult care in the field of Orthoptics is uniquely challenging and rewarding, found in settings of ophthalmology specific to neuro-ophthalmology and adult eye muscle disorders.

The practice of orthoptics is multi-fold. Clinical orthoptics may be practiced by Cos in a variety of physical locations including hospitals, clinics, private offices and academic medical institutions. COs also treat many non-surgical disorders of ocular motility and binocular vision and help the ophthalmologist with the surgical planning of strabismus surgery. Some COs assist the ophthalmologist in the operating room. Others may work in hospital or medical university setting involved in patient care, academics and clinical research. Orthoptists may serve as directors or advisors of state and local vision screening programs.

Patients may be referred for a sensorimotor evaluation from within the practice or from ophthalmologists in the medical community for assessment of amblyopia, pre- and post-operative strabismus, and complaints relating to binocular function. Orthoptists may also conduct and publish clinical research, and they commonly participate in the education of medical students, residents, and orthoptic students.

Orthoptics offers opportunities for dynamic individuals who desire to exercise leadership ability and for those who enjoy involvement in a professional organization. For a list of Orthoptic Fellowship Programs look at the American Orthoptic Council [AOC] section of this website and other sections in how to become a CO and work as an Orthoptist in this rewarding career.

The American Association of Certified Orthoptists (AACO) is a membership organization with a mission to promote and advance the professional and educational competence of orthoptists. The AACO is governed and administrated by member orthoptists.