Frequently Asked Questions

Why is an eye test so important?

Being able to see properly is vital. Good vision leads to a better quality of life, helps children do well at school and is a legal requirement for driving and certain jobs. Eye tests help to ensure your vision is as good as it can be.

They also help make sure you’re healthy. An eye test can pick up early signs of eye diseases and underlying health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, some brain tumours and multiple sclerosis.

How often should I have my eyes tested?

If you’re not experiencing any pain or symptoms you should have your eyes tested every two years. As a regular health check, it helps keep on top of any changes in your vision and general health that may otherwise go unnoticed.

However, you may need to be checked on a more regular basis depending on your age and medical situation. If you’re not sure just contact your friendly local opticians and ask.

Do I have to pay for an Eye test?

More than 30 million people in the UK are entitled to a free eye examination paid for by the NHS. The list below details who is automatically entitled to regular NHS sight tests.

  • Aged 60 or over
  • Under 16 or under 19 still in full time education
  • Diagnosed as having diabetes or glaucoma
  • 40 years of age or over with a close relative with glaucoma
  • Registered blind or partially sighted
  • In need of complex lenses (you may also get an optical voucher)

You are also entitled to a free NHS sight test if you (or your partner) are receiving the following benefits or credits:

  • Income Support or Income Based Job Seekers Allowance
  • Working Tax Credit/Child Tax Credit (and are named on a NHS Tax Credit Exemption Certificate)
  • You are named on a valid HC2 or HC3 certificate

Help with your glasses

As well as a free eye examination, you may also be entitled to some help with the purchase of glasses or contact lenses, if you are:

  • Under 16 or under 19 and still in full time education
  • Named on a valid HC2 or HC3 certificate
  • In need of complex lenses
  • You or your partner claim Income Support, Income Based Job Seekers Allowance, Working Family’s Tax Credit/Disabled Person’s Tax Credit(and are named on a NHS Tax Credit Exemption Certificate)

How old does my child have to be to have their eyes tested?

Children can have their eyes tested at any age. We recommend testing children as early as possible because poor vision can lead to learning problems. The earlier a problem is detected the higher the chance of successful treatment, we often see children as young as one year old. Children’s eyes are fully developed by the time they are eight-years-old so it is important to correct any problems before then.

Can anyone wear contact lenses?

Most people can now wear contact lenses. Advances in lens materials, designs and fits allow us to correct almost all types of vision including astigmatism and the need for a reading correction.

Why do I still need glasses when I wear contact lenses?

You can’t wear contact lenses all the time. Your eyes need a rest every evening (unless you are wearing extended wear lenses) and preferably one day a week if they’re going to stay healthy. Even with the best care they can become irritated or infected. If you don’t have an up-to-date pair of glasses, you either won’t be able to see during those times or you’ll end up wearing your lenses when it is damaging to do so.

What shall I do if my contact lenses are uncomfortable?

The golden rule with contact lenses is: if in doubt take them out! And come and see us as soon as you can. Then we can work out if there is any damage or deposits making them uncomfortable or if it is something else affecting your eyes.

What is short-sightedness?

If you’re short-sighted it means you can’t see in the distance very well but you can see fine when things are close to you. It is particularly important to detect short-sightedness in children, as they may struggle to read the whiteboard and not advance as well in their studies as they should. Short-sightedness can run in families and is easily corrected with glasses or contact lenses.

What is long-sightedness?

If you’re long-sighted it means you can see things fine in the distance but struggle to see what is in front of your eyes. That means you may have trouble reading. Some people develop long-sightedness as they got older because the lens of the eye becomes less flexible with age. That is called presbyopia and is easily corrected with glasses and contact lenses.

What is astigmatism?

Astigmatism occurs when the front part of the eye, the cornea, is not a regular symmetrical spherical shape. Instead it is shaped like a rugby ball and curvier in one direction than another, so the eye can’t focus light passing through it sharply and vision becomes blurred. Astigmatism can be corrected by a range of lenses. Astigmatism can be corrected with glasses and CLs.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye disorder in which the optic nerve suffers damage, usually caused by an increase in pressure in the eye. The result is irreversible vision problems that can lead to complete blindness if not treated.

If you have glaucoma in your family, the chance of you suffering the disease is increased but many people have glaucoma without any relative having the same problem. Thankfully, regular eye examinations help to spot this disease before too much damage is done.

What are cataracts?

A cataract is a clouding inside the normally clear lens of the eye. It develops as part of the ageing process and can reduce vision rapidly or over a period of decades. The only sure thing about cataracts is that they do not go away by themselves. As they grow your lens prescription can change rapidly resulting in the need for a frequent change of glasses. Some cataracts require surgical intervention to restore the vision.

What is macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration is basically wear and tear to the back of the eye. Usually age-related, it causes sufferers to lose the ability to pick out fine detail when directly looking at an object.

There are two types of macular degeneration: wet and dry. The wet form is less common but more treatable. Although more treatments are becoming available all the time, it is advised that eating well, protecting your eyes from ultraviolet light and not smoking help guard against the onset of both forms of the condition.

Why do I need regular eye tests if I’m diabetic?

Diabetes can cause diabetic retinopathy – damage to the retina – that can eventually lead to blindness. Regular eye tests are recommended for diabetics because the earlier any changes in the eye are detected, the more likely it is they can be monitored and treated. If you are diabetic the NHS will pay for your eyes to be checked every year.

What are varifocals?

Varifocals are an all-in-one solution for people who have trouble seeing at different distances. Combining three different prescriptions in one clear lens, they allow users to improve vision over short, intermediate and long ranges. Varifocals are available in many different designs and can be tailored to suit your specific needs.

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a general term covering all disorders that make it hard for a person to learn to read or interpret words, letters and other symbols. Dyslexia is often associated with Irlens syndrome but someone may have Irlens syndrome and may not be dyslexic.

These conditions are often associated with under-performance at school. Problems with reading and performance at school can be improved by correcting the spectacle prescription and by the use of coloured overlays or tinted spectacle lenses.