Optician is a general term that covers both optometrists and dispensing opticians.
Optometrists carry out sight tests to check the quality of your vision and eye health. They look for signs of eye disease which may need treatment from a doctor or eye surgeon and prescribe and fit glasses and contact lenses.
Dispensing opticians fit glasses and contact lenses, but do not test eyes. They can give you advice on types of lens, such as single-vision or bifocal, and help you to choose frames.
When you visit an optician you may have your sight tested by an optometrist or an ophthalmic medical practitioner. They are trained to recognise abnormalities and diseases in the eye, such as cataract and glaucoma.
After the sight test the optician must legally give you your spectacle prescription (whether new or unchanged) or a statement saying that you did not need a prescription. This statement will also say if you are being referred to your GP or ophthalmic hospital.
It is recommended that you visit an optometrist every two years (or more frequently if advised). This is important because an eye examination can detect potentially blinding eye conditions.
It is easy to neglect the eyes because they rarely hurt when there is a problem. But once eyesight is lost, it may never be restored.
See How to look after your eyes for information on eyecare.
You can find an optician by using NHS Choices services search by entering your postcode and choosing optician.