Who does what in vision care

Role of Eye Care Professionals

There are four eye care professionals you may come across.


(also known as: Eye Specialist, Eye Surgeon, Eye Doctor)

Ophthalmologists can:

  • diagnose and treat eye conditions
  • perform eye surgery
  • prescribe medications
  • prescribe glasses

To see an ophthalmologist a person must have a referral from their general practitioner or optometrist. There is usually a gap in Medicare coverage, however not at public hospitals.


Optometrists can:

  • prescribe glasses and contact lenses
  • diagnose or screen for and monitor eye disease
  • prescribe a limited range of medications
  • refer clients directly to an ophthalmologist if surgery or complex therapeutic treatment is required.

The eye examinations undertaken by optometrists are covered by Medicare and are usually bulk billed. No referral is required to see an optometrist.


Orthoptists can:

  • Prescribe glasses and contact lenses

Orthoptists work with ophthalmologists in hospitals and private practice, in research and within low vision agencies. 

Orthoptists working in low vision are able to provide:

  • clinical and functional vision assessment
  • recommendation and prescription for low vision devices
  • assessment of lighting requirements at home and work
  • education to clients, family, community and staff
  • vision reports for tertiary students or people seeking employment
  • recommendations of appropriate print size for reading
  • eccentric viewing programs to effectively train people to use peripheral vision to maximise vision for all daily living tasks
  • null point training to minimise the movement of the eyes with nystagmus.

Dispensing opticians

Dispensing opticians can:

  • Make and dispense glasses and contact lenses from the prescriptions written by ophthalmologists, optometrists and orthoptists.

Some dispensing opticians manufacture spectacles on site as well as do repairs and adjustments. Some dispensing opticians are employed by large corporations but many are self-employed in private practice or are in partnerships with optometrists.

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