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A Guide to Eye Tests

Having a regular eye test is important, not only to detect if you are short- or long-sighted or have other sight problems but also to look out for any signs of eye disease such as glaucoma. Having good eyesight is crucial for many aspects of day-to-day life and a regular visit to the optician can make sure we can continue to be safe to carry out activities such as driving a car as well as making it comfortable for us to read or to watch TV, for example.

What happens in an eye test?

It is recommended that everyone has an eye test every two years. An optician may suggest a shorter interval such as a year for children who wear glasses, for people who suffer from diabetes, for people aged 70 or over or for anyone who has a family history of glaucoma and is aged over 40.

The optician will carry out a series of tests to check various aspects of your sight and he or she will also examine your eyes to check for any symptoms of eye disease. The tests include:

The non-contact tonometer: this blows puffs of air into your eyes to check the pressure inside each eye. A high pressure reading could be a sign of glaucoma.

The autorefractor: this measures how well your eyes focus.

The retinoscope: this sends a light beam into your eye which bounces back. The optician will do this through different lenses until he gets a guide to your prescription.

The test chart: you will be asked to read a series of letters which get gradually smaller. Each eye will be tested with different lenses until you can read the letters comfortably.

The opthalmoscope: this shines a bright light into your eye so the optician can examine the retina to detect conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes.


Specsavers Guide to an Eyetest
The oxo box: this test examines how well your eyes work together.

The slit lamp: this checks the outer surface of your eyes for any scratches or unusual signs. This test is important for people who wear contact lenses.

The visual field screener: this detects whether you have any blind spots.

Health and lifestyle questions: the optician will ask you about your own health and that of your family as well as about your work and lifestyle.

What happens afterwards?

Once the optician has finished the eye test, he should have a reasonably accurate guide to your prescription and should have detected whether your eyes have any problems which need to be followed up. You should be given your prescription and if you need glasses or need your glasses prescription changed, you should be offered help by the dispenser to choose a pair of glasses. Most people end up choosing a pair of glasses from the store or business which carried out their eye test but you don’t have to. You can take your prescription to another optician’s business if you wish.

If any problems are detected in your eyes which are of concern to the optician you may be asked to return for another eye test in a few months’ time to check for any changes. Alternatively, you may be referred to the eye department of your local hospital for further investigation.

Do I have to pay for an eye test?

Unless you live in Scotland, where all eye tests are free of charge, or you are entitled to a free NHS eye test, you will have to pay. Eye tests tend to cost between £20 and £30 although if you shop around or look out for offers you may be able to pay less.

You can check to see if you’re entitled to a free NHS eye test on the NHS Choices website at http://www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/895.aspx?CategoryID=68&SubCategoryID=157. Children under the age of 16 or up to 18 and in full-time education can have their eyes tested for free as can people over the age of 60. People with conditions such as glaucoma or diabetes or people thought to be at risk of glaucoma are entitled to free NHS eye tests. The entitlement list also includes people on a variety of benefits.

Where can I go for an eye test?

It used to be that eye tests could only be carried out by specialist optician businesses on the High Street but in recent years larger High Street chains and even supermarkets have got in on the act. The best known High Street opticians include Specsavers, Optical Express and Vision Express, and Boots also offers a sight test service. Tesco and Asda are amongst the supermarkets offering sight tests, making it convenient to combine your weekly grocery shop with your two-year eye check up!

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