The difference between optician, optometrist and ophthalmologist

There are different eye care professionals who can help you maintain a strong and healthy eyesight. When it's time to book an eye test, it is important that you see the right expert who can help you best with your eye health needs.

Choosing whether to see an optician, optometrist and ophthalmologist can be confusing if you don't know the difference between these eye care providers.

Learning what each professional is qualified to do and what kind of advice they can give you is important to make sure you obtain the right eye care services at the right time.

Ophthalmologist

An ophthalmologist is a doctor with a medical degree who has specialised in the medical and surgical care of eyes and vision. As a medically-trained specialist, an ophthalmologist is qualified to diagnose diseases in the eyes and visual system through a variety of eye testing and other examination techniques, as well as treat them by prescribing medicine or conducting surgical procedures.

Optometrist

An optometrist is a health professional who has been extensively trained to detect and treat vision problems, but they cannot prescribe most medicines or carry out surgeries as they don't hold a medical degree. In a sense, optometrists are like physiotherapists for your eyes: they help you determine the extent of eye health problems and correct any visual defects present by prescribing appropriate eye exercises, spectacles and contact lenses.

Optician

An optician is a person who has been trained to create, verify and deliver lenses, frames and other optical products according to a prescription made by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Opticians are the equivalent of pharmacists in the eye health professions: they will make sure to prepare and deliver the appropriate eyewear for your eye care needs and offer you helpful advice to make the best use out of any optical products you require.

Which eye health professional do I need?

The answer to that question depends a lot on the state of your eye health.

If your eyes are healthy and you don't require specialised treatment, then an optometrist can take care of your routine eye testing and examination. Optometrists are also trained to treat common eye problems such as eye infections or dryness, as well chronic eye diseases that do not require the attention of a doctor.

If you suspect you may have an eye health problem that requires medical attention, an ophthalmologist will be able to examine your eyes in more detail and diagnose any disease if present. The ophthalmologist can also manage eye problems that require medical or surgical eye treatment, or refer you to another doctor if your condition requires a different type of specialised care.

In both cases, if you're prescribed eyeglasses, contact lenses or other eye products, the optician will be the person that dispenses the optical device you require.