Orthoptics is a profession allied to the eye care profession whose primary emphasis is the diagnosis and non-surgical management of strabismus (wandering eye), amblyopia (lazy eye) and eye movement disorders. The word orthoptics comes from the Greek words ὀρθός orthos, "straight" and ὀπτικός optikοs, "relating to sight" and much of the practice of orthoptists addresses the oculomotor components of binocular vision in both strabismic and non-strabismic disorders.
Orthoptics has a long history in supporting ophthalmic care. French ophthalmologist Louis Emile Javal, began using ocular exercises to treat strabismus (wandering eye) and described the practice of orthoptics in his writings in the late 19th century. Mary Maddox pioneered the orthoptic profession and was the first documented orthoptist. She was trained by her father, Ernest E. Maddox, in response to increasing patient demand and time needed to examine and treat patients. Dr Ernest Maddox was a reputed ophthalmologist as well as the inventor of various instruments for investigating binocular vision. Mary Maddox started her own practice in London in the early 1920s and her first hospital clinic opened at the Royal Westminster Hospital in 1928. The first Australian hospital clinic with orthoptists was established at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne in 1931.
Orthoptics and vision therapy are two largely separate traditions for assessing and treating visual disorders. They share common features as non-surgical methods of visual rehabilitation, but today, orthoptists practice most often under the care of an ophthalmologist, often a strabismologist, while vision therapy is practiced more often (but not exclusively) in optometry settings.
Vision therapy addresses a wider range of visual deficits and includes rehabilitative therapies that help patients develop or improve a wide variety of visual skills including oculomotor dysfunction, eye coordination disorders, accommodative anomalies, strabismus, and amblyopia. Visual rehabilitation techniques utilized in common by orthoptists and vision therapists are numerous and include patching therapy, oculomotor exercises, anti-suppression therapy, accommodation therapy, and vergence therapy, among others.