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What is an optician, and when should you see one?

An optician talks to a teenage boy and his mom about different eyeglasses frames.

A licensed optician is a technician who has been trained to design, provide and “fit” corrective lenses for vision care patients using prescriptions provided by their eye doctors. Many opticians are primarily involved with the customer service portion of an eye care center, though some may work in various medical settings as well.

Unlike an ophthalmologist or optometrist, an optician does not write prescriptions or diagnose eye conditions. They do, however, use the prescriptions provided by an ophthalmologist or optometrist to help fit a patient for corrective lenses including eyeglasses and contact lenses.

What does an optician do?

The responsibilities of an optician primarily revolve around making sure a patient is fitted with the proper eyewear, including recommending styles and features, taking measurements and providing other customer service. 

More specific duties of an optician include:

  • Ensuring prescriptions are a match to eyeglasses, prescription sunglasses and contact lenses

  • Using special equipment to measure patients’ pupillary distance, vertex distance, eye size and temple length

  • Maintaining records of patient purchases and payments

  • Submitting vision insurance information for patients and advising them on what insurance will cover for eyewear

  • Advising patients on eyewear features such as lens coatings and frame styles to fit their individual needs, preferences and personal style

  • Selling additional retail for eyewear and eyewear accessories

SEE RELATED: What is an ophthalmic technician?

When to see an optician

You will likely visit with an optician following a vision care appointment with an eye doctor. Your optician should assist you in choosing a new pair of glasses, prescription sunglasses and/or contact lenses, as well as scheduling future appointments to update your prescription, etc.

An optician is the primary eye care professional responsible for guiding patients for all purchases related to eyewear, such as frames, contact lenses, accessories and more.

Optician vs. optometrist

Opticians and optometrists work together to provide patients with eyeglasses that fit well and provide the vision correction they need.

The difference between an optician and an optometrist is that an optician helps a patient get fitted for glasses, frames and contact lenses, while an optometrist administers the eye exam and writes the prescriptions for the corrective eyewear.

Though their responsibilities differ, opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists all play important roles in providing vision care. 

Contact an eye care professional (ECP) — an optician, optometrist or an ophthalmologist — for routine eye exams and other vision concerns.

READ MORE: Optometrist vs. ophthalmologist  

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