Who’s Who and What’s the Difference?


Ophthalmologists are doctors of medicine. They have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of how the whole body works as well as specific knowledge of the function and treatment of the eye. This enables them to understand and treat conditions, which affect the eyes such as diabetes. An ophthalmologist will learn how to diagnose and treat diseased eyes using medication, lasers and other eye treatments, as they understand how to manage the visual system. Ophthalmologists have the right skills, knowledge and training to deliver all eye care, including primary, secondary and tertiary. They may prescribe medication and perform surgery such as laser eye surgery, cataract removal and treat eye cancers.


Optometrists have the right training to examine eyes and diagnose vision problems, eye diseases and other conditions. They have in-depth knowledge of disorders of the visual system, the eye and its associated structures. They can also diagnose related systemic conditions. They can then prescribe glasses/contact lenses and adjust glasses or lenses as required. Optometrists can prescribe some medications if they have the relevant qualifications, but cannot perform surgery such as laser eye surgery. They will refer patients to an ophthalmologist for surgery.

Optician/Dispensing Optician

Dispensing opticians do not carry out eye tests or look for signs of eye disease and cannot prescribe glasses and contact lenses. Dispensing opticians primarily fit glasses and contact lenses. They can give you advice on types of lens, such as single-vision or bifocal lenses. They can also run through the different styles of frames and help you choose.