As eye problems rarely cause pain, it’s important to schedule regular eye tests to keep your vision in top shape and other health complications at bay.
According to research, nearly half of all sight loss is avoidable, yet six million people in the UK are still living with sight-threatening conditions. Eye tests can do a lot more than just detect problems with your vision; if done regularly, they can spot a wide range of health conditions—including diabetes—before they become bigger issues. The NHS and the Royal College of Optometrists recommend individuals undergo an eye test at least once every two years. If you fall under a specific group, these tests may be free on the NHS.
What happens during an eye test?
Although these appointments are generally tailored to a patient’s individual needs, there are a few routine exams patients can expect.
Pre-test. During a pre-test, an optical assistant will use various diagnostic equipment. Using a tonometer, they will blow a puff of air onto the surface of the eyes to measure the internal pressure
; allowing your potential risk of developing glaucoma to be assessed. An autorefraction test will determine whether you’re short or long-sighted. Lastly, a photograph of the back of your eyes will be taken using digital retinal photography. This will be useful in monitoring changes in your eyes over time.
Optometrist check. During your optometrist visit, your vision will be measured using a retinoscope and by reading a test chart through different strength lenses. A Volk lens will check the retina, optic nerve and its vessels to make sure they are healthy. Your eyes will also be scanned for abnormalities or scratches on the surface with a slit lamp. If you require it, your optometrist may also perform a visual field check, during which your ability to detect flashes of light in your peripheral vision will be tested. This exam is crucial in detecting early glaucoma or problems associated with headaches. At the end of the test, your optometrist will also look for signs of other medical conditions as well as ask you about your general health and wellbeing. They will talk you through your results and evaluations and recommend the best options and treatments—if necessary—for your specific needs.
Tests on the NHS
Certain groups of people are entitled to a free eye test on the health service. These include people who:
- are under 16
- are 16,17 or 18 and in full-time education
- are 60 or over
- are registered as partially sighted or blind
- have been diagnosed with diabetes and glaucoma
- are 40 or over with an immediate family member—like father, mother, sibling or child—diagnosed with glaucoma
- are a prisoner or on leave from prison
- are eligible for an NHS complex lens voucher
Source: NHS Choices
Although official advice states eye tests should be booked every two years, make an appointment if you notice any difference in your vision or if you have started experiencing problems with your eyes