Choosing an eye doctor is a critical healthcare decision as the eye doctor is in charge of your precious sense of sight. Though eye care is critical, few people understand the differences between the various eye care professionals who practice this field. As a result, they may not know when to see an optometrist or an optician.


An optometrist is an eye physician who hold a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree. Optometrists offer primary eye and vision care such as detection of diseases in the eye, prescribing medication and rehabilitation of conditions that affect the visual system. Unlike an ophthalmologists, optometrists are usually not licensed to perform eye surgery


Opticians are not eye doctors, rather they are responsible for fitting eye care devices prescribed by optometrists or ophthalmologist.

Now that you know the differences between the various eye care professionals, here is when to see an optometrist:

When you have visual disturbances or changes

Sudden occurrence of visual disturbances or changes are signs of an underlying problem with your visual system. These changes include retinal detachment, hole or tear. If you experience any visual disturbances such as flashes of light, floaters or obstruction of vision, you need to seek medical intervention to preempt the risk of losing your vision.

You experience chronic eye fatigue or pain

Temporarily eye pain or fatigue can be caused by many factors. These include cold, allergies and insufficient sleep. Most of the time, temporary fatigue or pain is not an indicator of a major problem. However when pain persist for several days or if you experience pain during regular eye movements, it is time to consult an optometrist. Persistent pain or fatigue can be a sign of a serious condition or an indicator that your vision has changed.

Recurring headaches

Recurring headaches can be a sign of various health complications including vision trouble. Since change in vision occur gradually, people rarely notice the changes as the eyes adjust accordingly. In spite of the eyes seeking to adjust, the body is not fooled. And one of the ways the body tells you that all is not well with your vision is through recurring headaches. So, if you experience frequent headaches, consider scheduling for an eye exam.

You have focusing problems or blurry vision

Blurry vision or focusing problems can be a sign of a major underlying problem which should be addressed as soon as possible. If the vision problem occur in one eye more often than the other or come and go, it is time to schedule an appointment with your eye doctor.


Squinting occurs when you have difficulties seeing. It reduces the amount of light getting into the eye and lower light scattering which temporary improve vision. If you notice that you have to squint in order to enhance your vision, it is time to see an optometrist.

The problems stipulated above are basic guidelines on when to see an optometrist. They indicate that you have an underlying medical condition that should be addressed urgently. However, rather than wait until you experience any of these symptoms, you can opt to take preventative measures by consulting an eye physician before the onset of vision problems.