What’s the difference between an optometrist and optician?
The field of optics is niche and complex, so it comes as no surprise that so many people find all of the different roles within optics a total mystery, the main question being what's the difference between an optometrist and optician?
Let’s have a look at the different roles we may (or may not) have come in contact with, and what they mean. Keep in mind that these terms may mean different things outside of the UK. Are you an optometrist or optician yourself? Have a look at what Eyebou can do to grow your business.
This has become somewhat of an umbrella term, to describe a person qualified in optics. It used to mean “the person who tests your eyes”, but now that these roles are more accurately defined, the term “optician” is starting to fall out of use.
Looking to speak to someone about your eyes? For a general consultation, you can book a remote appointment with one of our opticians, which you can have from your smartphone or computer!
This is the wondrous person who analyses your prescription following your eye examinations. They are frame and lens specialists, providing you with all of the appropriate options for you depending on the features of your prescription and your visual needs. They will often have a handover from the optometrist to understand what your main goals or concerns have been, and will work with you to help you choose the best frame and lens options for you.
This is a vital part of your eyecare journey, as the spectacle prescription can be applied to glasses in a myriad of ways, and it is essential that your dispensing optician works closely with you to deliver exactly what you want from your spectacles and lenses, and help manage your expectations of how they will turn out after being made in the lab.
Dispensing opticians are also wizards with frame repairs and adjustments, and are the magic sauce in ensuring your frames sit perfectly on your face when you’re collecting your spectacles. This is vital, not only to the comfort and stability of your frames, but also if you end up looking through the wrong part of your spectacle lenses, your vision won’t be as good, and your eyes might feel uncomfortable.
These are basically your “Eye GPs”. Other than severe emergency eye accidents or changes, you can visit your optometrist to have your eyes examined. Some optometrists also specialize in certain fields like diabetic retinal changes, or glaucoma and can also fit and supply contact lenses, and can be both hospital and community based. Your optometrist focuses on two major things; 1) Helping you to see to the very best of your ability & 2) Ensuring that your eyes are as healthy as they can be.
Usually your routine eye examination will be made up of two parts:
- Refraction: this is the magical part where the optometrist will measure your vision and prescription (the power of spectacle lenses you need to see well). Refraction is a delicate and intricate balance of measurements and requires the optometrist to gain an understanding of what your practical visual needs are for your life. Your optometrist should be discussing with you the type of day to day tasks you do, relating to your professional and personal lives, to ensure you have all the relevant measurements to allow you to see and engage with those tasks in the most comfortable and clearest way possible. What works for one person may not work for another, depending on the type of job they have. This is because the calculations found for your prescription, will then need to be applied to a particular lens design. This lens design has a huge impact on how you see, and is an integral part of the conversations your optometrist should be having with you.
- Health: your optometrist will take great care assessing the health of both the front and back of your eyes. This can often give an insight into the health of the rest of the body, and you may have experienced your optometrist advising that you have further tests with your GP following your eye test e.g. blood pressure and blood glucose checks. You’ll notice that your optometrist will ask you about your medical history, including any medications you’re taking as these can often affect your vision and also the health of your eyes.
Orthoptists are usually hospital based and are experts in diagnosing and treating problems where the eyes are not working as a team together as they should be. If you’ve experienced an eye muscle imbalance, misalignment of the eyes or “squint” (wandering eye), you would most likely be referred to be assessed by an orthoptist in a hospital setting where they will advise a range of treatments in the management of their visual symptoms e.g. particular exercises to help the muscles, occlusive therapy (wearing an eye patch), or surgical intervention.
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These are eye surgeons working in a hospital setting. Ophthalmologists are highly specialized working within a particular specialty or a variety of specialisms eg. retinal issues, corneal issues, glaucoma, macular issues etc etc. If you are over 70 or have relatives over 70, you might have experienced them needing to have their natural age-related cataracts removed. This procedure, as well as any surgical procedure performed on the eye, is always carried out by an ophthalmologist in the UK. You will only see an ophthalmologist if you find yourself at the A&E of an eye hospital or are referred to an eye hospital for specialized or surgical treatment.
This article was written by Mai Monavar, Eyebou's lead optometrist.