Oculist, ophthalmologist and optometrist

The difference between an oculist and an ophthalmologist has to do with the use given to both words in certain Spanish-speaking regions. However, it is the same profession.

Oculist and ophthalmologist refer to a doctor who, in addition to his general studies, has a specialization in eye health, so he can diagnose and treat pathologies related to vision.

However, in some localities the term ophthalmologist has traditionally been used to refer to the medical professional, while those who work in an optician’s are called an oculist (erroneously).

In the latter case, it is the optician or optometrist, who is a professional with technical training in procedures to train and correct visual health, but is not a doctor.

Oculist / OphthalmologistOptician / optometrist
DefinitionDoctor specialized in visual health.Non-medical healthcare professional dedicated to visual health.
StudiesMedicine, specialization in Ophthalmology and optional subspecialties.Optics and Optometry.
  • Diagnosis and treatment of visual pathologies.
  • Correction of pathologies through drugs or surgical interventions.
  • Diagnosis and treatment of visual dysfunctions.
  • Design and manufacture of corrective lenses.


What is an oculist or an ophthalmologist?

An ophthalmologist or oculist is a person who studied medicine, and later specialized in the field of vision.

Therefore, an oculist is qualified medical personnel and can make diagnoses, prescribe medications or perform surgical interventions as long as they are authorized to do so by the academic and health authorities of the country in which they practice their profession.

Ophthalmologist comes from the Greek ophtalmos and logos , whose translation could be “the science that studies the eyes.”

On the other hand, oculist comes from the Latin oculus and has the suffix ista, which refers to a trade, so it could be translated as “professional of the eye” or “specialist of the eye”.

Ophthalmology allows the pharmacological or surgical treatment of visual health problems such as cataracts, presbyopia, astigmatism, glaucoma, strabismus, etc.

Even today, many people (especially older people) refer to the ophthalmologist as “the eye doctor”, and use the term oculist to refer to those who work in an optician, which as we have already seen, is a mistake.

What is an optometrist or an optician?

When people require the attention of an Optician, either because they need glasses, contact lenses or do some type of visual rehabilitation, what they are really looking for is an optometrist or optician (not an eye doctor).

In this case, it is a health professional without medical skills, who, although he can detect some conditions related to vision, is not trained or authorized to perform surgical interventions.

In any case, the ophthalmologist or oculist and the optometrist work hand in hand to improve the visual health of their patients. An ophthalmologist may refer a patient to the optometrist for guidance on the type of lenses or glasses he or she needs, or to carry out a vision training program.

For his part, the eye doctor can refer a patient to the eye doctor when they detect any visual pathology that requires medical attention. You can also be present in an ophthalmological surgery as a support from the doctor, although you cannot participate directly in the procedure.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *