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What is an optometrist?

Optometrists are often known as opticians, eye specialists, eye doctors, and ophthalmologist, when in fact they are none of these.

So, what is an optometrist?

In simple terms, an optometrist is a registered health professional who performs eye tests. This includes sight testing, the diagnosis and management of vision defects, and eye diseases. Many optometrists, including ours here at Black Gates Optometrists, can prescribe medicine to treat eye conditions. Optometrists have very specialised equipment and should be considered as the first port of call for any eye issues: from changing eyesight to red, sore eyes.


Opticians, correctly known as dispensing opticians, also undergo additional education in the performance and quality of lenses. Dispensing opticians are qualified to dispense the prescriptions from optometrists or ophthalmologists. They are experts in lens technology, optimising your choice of glasses, choosing the most appropriate glasses frames and making adjustments


Optometrists may refer you to an ophthalmologist who is a specialist who has completed medical school and undertaken further education and training in vision and the eye. They treat serious eye conditions through both surgery and medicine. “Eye doctors” or “eye specialists” are common titles given to ophthalmologists. Our optometrists may refer you to an ophthalmologist if more specialised care is needed

Where did all the names come from?

The optical industry has a long history; the knowledge of light rays and the use of lenses was founded a few hundred years BC in the ancient Islamic world. Technology and knowledge grew greatly through the Middle Ages and across the world from India to China and Europe. It is thought the first glasses to correct vision were made in Italy in the 1300s.

The importance in this area of interest has created a range of professions all with different areas of expertise.

In New Zealand, only optometrists and ophthalmologists are approved to perform eye tests and prescribe glasses or contact lenses.

Contact our Wellington optometrist practices in Lower Hutt and Johnsonville to book an appointment.

Our team includes both qualified optometrists and dispensing opticians, and we have industry leading eye testing equipment in both locations . This ensures your complete care and confidence from your eye test through to the selection of your glasses or contact lenses and follow up services.