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There is a wide range of eye care professionals working in high street practices and hospital clinics, and behind the scenes in laboratories and workshops, to keep your eyes healthy and help you to see as clearly as possible.

What is an optometrist?

Optometrists work in high street and community practices, hospital clinics and may also come to your home or day centre. Optometrists work in community practices, hospital clinics and may also come to your home or day centre. They test your sight and can prescribe and dispense suitable glasses, contact lenses and other visual aids. They also examine your eyes in order to identify any eye conditions or diseases, and can manage or treat them, or refer you to other eye health specialists, if necessary.

Optometrists study at university for at least three years and then undertake a year of supervised training in a practice or hospital clinic before undertaking a final examination to qualify. All practising optometrists must continue to learn and train throughout their working lives. Some take additional qualifications which enable them to prescribe medicines or to provide extra services for patients with conditions such as glaucoma or low vision, or in areas such as children’s eye health.

Members of the College of Optometrists, the professional body for optometry, are entitled to use the letters MCOptom or FCOptom (if they are a Fellow) after their name. Members of the College must sign up to a code of conduct, so you can be confident that they are committed to the very highest clinical, ethical and professional standards.

Find your nearest MCOptom/FCOptom optometrist.

What is a dispensing optician (DO)?

If you need glasses, the dispensing optician will analyse your optical prescription, talk to you about your work and hobbies and take facial measurements. They will then help you to choose the frames and lenses that fit well, are comfortable and will suit you and your lifestyle. When you come to pick up your new glasses, they will check that they fit well and make any necessary adjustments.

Dispensing opticians who have completed further training are also able to fit you with contact lenses.

See the Association of British Dispensing Opticians‘ website.

What is an optical technician?

Your glasses will be made by an optical technician. They will translate the order produced by the dispensing optician into the finished pair of spectacles. They may also carry out spectacle repairs. Some optical technicians produce prosthetic (artificial) eyes. 

See the Association of British Dispensing Opticians‘ website.

What is an ophthalmologist?

Ophthalmologists are medically trained doctors who have undertaken further specialist training in matters relating to the human eye. They examine, diagnose and treat diseases and injuries of the eye and the surrounding areas like the socket and eyelids. They can prescribe a wide range of medicines, may perform eye surgery and typically work in the hospital eye service.

See the Royal College of Ophthalmologists website.

What is an orthoptist?

Orthoptists diagnose and treat defects of vision and abnormalities of eye movement, including vision problems in children. They are usually part of a hospital care team looking after people with eye problems especially those related to binocular vision, amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (squint).

See the British and Irish Orthoptic Society website.