The importance of regular eye examinations | What to expect when visiting your optician

Eye tests are vital because you might not necessarily feel pain when something is wrong with your eye health. A visit to your optician for an examination is an important health check that may detect initial signs of eye conditions before you’re aware of any symptoms. It is important to remember that many eye conditions can be treated if found early.

People are often unaware that a sight test will also include a general health check that can pick up early signs of eye disease. An eye test can also help identify other health conditions such as high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure and increased risk of stroke.

How often should you visit your optician?

Optometrists recommend that most people should get their eyes tested every two years. However, in some situations, they may recommend more frequent tests, for example, if you:

  • have diabetes
  • are aged 40+ and have a family history of glaucoma
  • are aged 70+
  • young children wearing glasses

Your sight examination

An eye test usually lasts around 30 minutes and you may need to discuss your age, lifestyle and medical history. Sight tests are governed by law and will identify your level of vision and whether you need glasses to correct your sight. Your eyes and the area around them will also be examined, to look for signs of injury, disease or abnormality. Your retina will be examined, your level of visual acuity assessed and the pressure inside your eye may also be measured.

Some health conditions can affect the eyes; it is important to tell your optician if you have diabetes, macular degeneration, glaucoma and dementia. This list is not exhaustive, please advise your optician of any conditions which may influence your eye health.

During your appointment, you may see more than one practitioner. An optometrist or ophthalmic medical practitioner will test your sight to check the quality of your vision and your eye health, and you may also see a dispensing optician, who will fit your glasses.

If you already wear glasses or contact lenses, remember to take them with you to your sight test. You will be asked to wear them during the test.

What happens after a sight test?

At the end of your sight test, your ophthalmic practitioner will discuss the results with you. They will tell you whether your sight needs correcting or if you need to be referred for further investigation. They will also give you an optical statement or prescription to guide your next steps. You can take your prescription to any provider to have your glasses made up.

Over 30 million people in the UK are entitled to free eye tests on the NHS. If you’re entitled to an NHS optical voucher, this will also be given to you after your NHS sight test. You can take your voucher to any supplier to buy glasses or contact lenses, providing they accept optical vouchers. For more information about free eye tests and optical voucher entitlement click here.

Children under 16 and individuals who are registered blind or partially sighted can only have their glasses or contact lenses dispensed by, or under the supervision of, a registered medical practitioner, registered optometrist or registered dispensing optician.

It is important to remember that you don’t need to wait if you suspect there may be a problem with your eye health. If in doubt, get it checked out.

Further information:

Having an eye examination at home

Some simple tips for health eyes

Eye safety

Top tips to shield your eyes from the sun

5 ways diabetes can affect your eye health

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