What’s the difference between an optometrist and an optician?

You’re likely to encounter one of three types of eye care specialists when maintaining or experiencing problems with your sight:

  • Optometrist: When you have an eye exam, you’ll see an optometrist. Previously known as ophthalmic opticians, these highly trained eye care specialists are focused specifically on eye health. They detect eye diseases and manage certain eye conditions. They’ll look out for defects in your vision, picking up signs of injury and abnormalities. They make overall health assessments and give you clinical advice, prescribe glasses or contact lenses, and refer you to a specialist if needed.
  • Dispensing Optician: Dispensing opticians advise, supply, and fit eyewear that suits you, your lifestyle, and your vocational needs. They’re also highly skilled professionals with a knowledge of styling, repairs, and adjustments of glasses.
  • Ophthalmologist: Ophthalmologists are surgical and medical specialists who perform eye operations. You’ll typically find them in hospital eye departments, but they also perform private work.

Confusion arises because the word ‘optician’ is used as a catch-all term for both optometrists (who look after eye health, detect disease and perform eye exams) and dispensing opticians who style and adjust frames and perform repairs.

At Taank, we have experienced optometrists and dispensing opticians, so you get the best of both worlds.

How often should I have my eyes tested?

Normally every two years. But your optometrist will advise you if more frequent exams would better suit your age and clinical findings.

How often should I have my child’s eyes tested?

Most children have great eyesight, but it’s advisable to have your child’s eyes examined once a year. An eye exam is free for children under 16 and those under 18 and still in full time education.

Can I use my spectacle prescription to buy contact lenses?

Spectacle and contact lens prescriptions are different. Additional tests are needed to determine your contact lens prescription. Before ordering contact lenses, ensure you have an up-to-date contact lens and spectacle prescription.

Who qualifies for free eye exams?

You don’t always have to have a private eye exam—for many people, they’re free! You’re entitled to a free NHS sight test if you are:

  • Under 16
  • Aged 16 to 18 and in full-time education
  • 60 or over
  • Registered as partially sighted or blind
  • Diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma
  • 40 or over and your mother, father, sibling, or child has been diagnosed with glaucoma
  • Advised by an ophthalmologist that you’re at risk of glaucoma
  • A prisoner on leave from prison
  • Eligible for an NHS complex lens voucher (ask your eye care specialist whether you’re entitled)

You may also be entitled if you or your partner (including civil partners) receive, or you’re under the age of 20 and the dependent of someone receiving:

  • Claim Income Support
  • Claim Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Claim Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Claim Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • Universal Credit and meet the criteria
  • If you’re entitled to or named on:
    • A valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate (if you don’t have a certificate, just show your award notice), or receive Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits with a disability element (or both), and have income for tax credit purposes of £15,276 or less
    • A valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2)

People named on an NHS certificate for partial help with health costs (HC3) may also get help with the cost of a private sight test.

We provide NHS patients with an optional enhanced examination that includes OCT imaging for just £40 (a private exam including OCT typically costs £75). Please ask us for further details.