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Optometrist vs Optician: What’s the Difference?

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An optometrist looking directly at the camera, smiling, and holding up a pair of glasses in his left hand.

An optometrist and an optician may sound like similar professionals, but they have distinct roles in the field of eye care. Understanding the differences can be helpful when looking for an eye care team that can meet all your needs—from eye exams and eye disease management to new glasses and sunglasses

Optometrists are healthcare professionals who specialize in providing comprehensive eye care. Opticians are trained to fit and dispense eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct your vision. Both professionals are crucial to maintaining your eye health and vision at every stage of life.

What Does an Optometrist Do?

An optometrist is a healthcare professional who has completed an undergraduate degree followed by a 4-year doctor of optometry program. They are qualified to conduct comprehensive eye exams, prescribe glasses and contact lenses, and diagnose and help manage various eye conditions and diseases.

They are also often authorized to prescribe medication for eye-related issues. Optometrists may also have extra expertise in certain fields, such as pediatric eye care, low vision care, specialty contact lenses, and vision therapy.

What Does an Optician Do?

An optician is a trained professional who fits and dispenses glasses and contact lenses according to prescriptions provided by an optometrist. They take detailed measurements of your eyes and face to confirm your prescription lenses are correctly sized and placed within their frame.

Opticians are also knowledgeable in helping patients choose eyeglass frames and lenses that align with their visual needs, personal style, and budget.

Why Their Expertise Matters

Getting new glasses and contact lenses isn’t like buying other everyday items. Glasses and contacts are medical devices. Far more goes into getting the right pair and fit for your needs.

For example, there are several measurements that need to be taken to help your glasses fit comfortably and provide the proper vision correction. This is where the expertise of optometrists and opticians comes in.

Both optometrists and opticians are critical figures who support you with their expertise when you get new glasses or contact lenses. Without help from a qualified professional, your new eyewear may not be as effective as it could be, and in the case of contact lenses, may put you at risk for other serious problems. 

Accurate Measurements

Optometrists and opticians are trained to take precise measurements of your eyes, including the distance between your pupils, the height of your eyes, and the curve of your cornea.

These measurements are crucial to keeping the lenses of your glasses positioned correctly in front of your eyes, providing ideal vision correction. If these measurements are off by even a few millimeters, you may experience headaches, eye strain, and blurred vision.

3 key measurements are necessary to help you select a comfortable pair of glasses:

  • Lens width: the horizontal measurement of the lens
  • Bridge width: the portion of your frames that “bridge” your nose
  • Arm length: the number of millimeters from the hinge of the frame to the tips behind your ear

Understanding Prescriptions

Eye care professionals have a deep understanding of your prescription that goes beyond just the numbers. They know how to interpret your prescription to determine the ideal type of lenses for your needs.

They can recommend different coatings and materials to help enhance your vision and protect your eyes. With their expertise, you can avoid lenses that are uncomfortable, too thick, and too heavy.

Selection of Frames

Opticians can also help you select the right frame for your face shape, style, and prescription. They consider all these factors to help you get glasses that can provide excellent vision correction and complement your personal style.

Optical departments also have a curated selection of quality frames for multiple needs, so no matter what you choose, you can get frames that suit you. Your optician can recommend lightweight, flexible, and durable frames based on your needs and budget.


By visiting an optician, you can customize your glasses to fit your unique needs. For example, if you have a strong prescription, they may recommend high-index lenses, which are thinner and lighter than traditional lenses.

If you spend a lot of time outdoors, they may recommend polarized lenses, which can reduce glare and provide UV protection. These customizations can make a big difference in your visual comfort and eye health.


Maintenance is critical to help extend the lifespan of your frames. Opticians can adjust the fit of your frames, replace the nose pads, and tighten or loosen screws as needed. They can also clean your lenses and recommend products to help keep them clear and scratch-free.

All these services help your glasses continue to provide excellent vision correction and comfort for years.

What Is an Ophthalmologist?

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor focused on providing surgical eye care. They can diagnose and treat eye conditions and perform surgeries. They receive extensive training in anatomy, physiology, and diseases of the eye and visual system, and they must complete a residency program after medical school.

Ophthalmologists can prescribe medication to treat eye problems as well, and they are often involved with surgical procedures like cataract removal, detached retina repair, and corneal transplants.

A woman shaking hands with an optician in the optical department of an optometry office.

Get Comprehensive Eye Care & Eye-Catching Eyewear

Despite the differences in their roles, optometrists, opticians, and ophthalmologists all work together to provide comprehensive eye care for their patients. They all play an essential role in maintaining and supporting your eye health.While online shopping is convenient for many things, you wear glasses daily, so you should visit the experts for a proper fit and full customization. Book an appointment at LMC Optometry and Eye Care to get an updated prescription and full support for your vision needs and eye health.

Written by LMC Optometry & Eye Care

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