What is Orthoptics?

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By See Foon Chan-Koppen

Melanie Yeoh

Orthoptics is an allied health profession specialising in diagnosis and management of disorders of eye movements and associated vision problems and rehabilitation of patients with vision loss.

In performing these functions, orthoptists are an integral part of the eye health team providing investigative testing of diseases such as glaucoma, assessment and management of eye movement disorders (for example, following a head injury) and rehabilitation of persons with sight loss due to eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration. Orthoptic treatment of certain conditions can relieve visual symptoms and enhance visual performance. Orthoptists serve patients of all ages, but because of the nature of many binocular disorders, the majority of patients are children.

Ipoh Girl

“My main role is to check the alignment of the eyes for optimal vision in order to correct problems like squints and lazy eye, misalignment and double vision.” explains Melanie who despite the fact that she practises most of the time in Kuala Lumpur, comes back a minimum of once a month and attends to patients at the Lee Eye Centre.

Born and bred in Ipoh, Melanie attended school in Main Convent and completed her Bachelor of Orthoptics in Australia. Currently she is studying for her Masters in Optometry at UKM (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) which she does in spite of her very busy schedule.

“Most of my patients here in Ipoh are children, accounting for almost 80%. Parents may not notice that their children have vision problems and it takes someone like myself to detect it and prescribe remedial action. Lazy eye for example must be corrected before the age of 7 or 8. Otherwise the condition can remain permanent.”

She advises parents to pay close attention to young children’s vision habits. Are they squinting to see or do they tilt their heads when looking at something. Even if the child appears to have perfectly normal vision, it is advisable for them to have at least one interaction with an eye specialist at a relatively young age. According to Melanie, a child’s vision can even be checked as early as one year old provided the eye specialist has been trained in Orthoptics, a rather special discipline not offered by many Universities around the world.

Melanie does not deal exclusively with children. Her patients include adults who may want to correct their double vision (usually due to head trauma after an accident), muscle weakness after a stroke or systemic problems like thyroid disease and patients requiring rehabilitation after eye surgery. Her patients are usually referred by ophthalmologists and eye surgeons.

For more information contact: Lee Eye Centre, Tel.: 05-2540095 or email: [email protected]