Are Orthoptics and Vision Therapy the Same Thing?

Dr. Russel Lazarus, September 12, 2021

The terms ‘vision therapy’ and ‘orthoptics’ are often used interchangeably. However, they are not the same thing.

Vision therapy is a customized treatment program that improves visual skills by developing and strengthening neural connections between the eyes and the brain.

Orthoptics, which was first established in the late 1800s, is primarily used if a child has a significant eye turn or severe lazy eye.

Vision therapy, on the other hand, focuses on the treatment of a broader spectrum of vision issues, whereas orthoptics concentrates on the treatment of specific and significant vision conditions.

What is orthoptic therapy?

Orthoptics is the science of correcting the eyes. It’s typically used to correct severe vision problems caused by only eye turns (strabismus) or a lazy eye (amblyopia).

Orthoptic therapy’s main purpose is to strengthen the eye muscles and improve eye alignment. This sort of therapy is limited to activities that focus on improving obvious lazy eyes or eye turns.

What is vision therapy?

Vision therapy is a one-on-one treatment program that strengthens the connections between the eyes and the brain to improve a wide range of over 17 visual skills.

Vision therapy is a personalized program, run under the care of an optometrist.

The following conditions have been shown to respond well to vision therapy:

  • Amblyopia (lazy eye)
  • Convergence insufficiency
  • Strabismus (crossed-eyes)
  • Eye fatigue
  • Double vision
  • Difficulties with eye tracking
  • Reduced eye teaming
  • Impaired eye focusing
  • Poor eye-hand coordination
  • Poor depth perception
  • Enhanced 3D vision
  • Difficulties with visual processing and perception

While vision treatment may include some orthoptics, this is only one component of a comprehensive vision therapy program.

The exercises in a vision therapy program are designed to increase the brain’s ability to coordinate eye movements and process visual information.

SEE RELATED: Vision Therapy and Orthoptics

Contact an eye doctor near you that can provide an eye exam to detect any underlying vision problems.

Find a Vision Therapy Eye Doctor Near You

Who can benefit from vision therapy?

The following red flags, which may signal a visual problem requiring vision therapy, could be observed by parents and teachers:

  • Reading below grade level
  • Spelling difficulties
  • Messy handwriting
  • Dislikes or avoids homework
  • Reduced reading comprehension
  • Difficulty maintaining attention
  • Poor judgment of depth
  • Reversing letters such as p, q, b and d
  • Confusing similar words, such as ‘was’ and ‘saw’
  • Writing numbers backward, such as 2 & 5 or 6 & 9
  • Loss of place, repetition, and/or missing of words while reading
  • Difficulty shifting focus from distance to near and back again

Optical lenses, prisms, filters, occluders, and other specialist equipment are also used in vision therapy to improve visual abilities and enhance the visual system.

Optometrists have been incorporating new technologies and computer-based games into their vision treatment programs in recent years in order to make vision therapy exercises even more interesting and engaging.

LEARN MORE: Guide to Vision Therapy

Make an appointment with a developmental optometrist near you to learn more about vision therapy and to see if it can benefit you.

Vision therapy is a treatment program that improves the 17 visual skills to treat lazy eye as well as optimize a child’s learning, reading and school grades.