What’s the difference between an Optometrist and a Dispensing Optician?

Over the years, the term ‘Optician’ has become a catch-all term for the people you see who test your eyesight. However, within that term, there are different roles with responsibility for different areas of your eye health.

As we often get asked to explain the difference between an Optometrist and a Dispensing Optician, we thought it would be helpful to explain it here.

What are the different roles?

During the course of your eye care, you will be seen by different skilled professionals who each have their own role to play in taking great care of your eyes and sight.


An Optometrist is a highly skilled eye-specialist. Their role is to examine the internal and external structure of your eyes and examine different aspects of your eye health. When examining your eyes, the optometrist will be:

  • Assessing your ability to focus, how your eyes move and co-ordinate as well as testing your colour and depth perception.
  • Screening for conditions such as cataracts, macular degenerations and glaucoma.
  • Monitoring pre-existing eye conditions.
  • Use specialist equipment including the OCT Scanner for an in-depth look at your entire eye.
  • Provide a prescription for corrective lenses.

Where an eye condition exists, your optometrist will provide you with advice on ways to manage the conditions and, where appropriate, can recommend eye strengthening exercises or vision therapy. If you require specialist medical treatment for any eye condition, your optometrist will make the necessary onward referrals.

If you require contact lenses, your optometrist will guide you through the types of lenses and advise on the most appropriate option. They will consider how the lens fits your eye and provide advice about protecting your eye health when using contact lenses.

When you are cared for by any of the optometrists at Sue Wassall Optometrists, you will usually be passed to our dispensing optician at the end of your test.

Dispensing Optician

After you have seen the optometrist you will usually be passed to the capable hands of a dispensing optician. Their role is to ensure that your eyes are taken care of by following the optometrist’s prescription. Your dispensing optician will ask you about your work, hobbies and lifestyle and recommend appropriate spectacles, lenses and contact lenses.

Your dispensing optician can also advise and dispense low vision aids if you are partially sighted and can help you if you have children who require glasses.

If you require new frames, your dispensing optician can help you to choose styles that fit well, and both look good when you wear them and are suited to your lifestyle. Part of this process involves considering how your prescription will affect your choice of lens and how that choice will work with your preferred frame.

Another important aspect of the dispensing optician’s role is to advise you on the aftercare of your lenses, frames and if you have them, contact lenses. This may range from advising on cleaning methods and products, through to adjusting your frames to give you greater comfort.

Do you need help with your lenses, frames or contact lenses?

If you have issues regarding the comfort or effectiveness of your visual aids, please get in touch. All practice staff are trained to make sure you see the best person to help you and can make you a convenient appointment.

Call 01329 832706 for an appointment at our Wickham practice or 023 9255 0723 for an appointment at our Lee-on-the-Solent practice.