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Looking after your eye health is just as important as looking after the rest of your body which is why it is important to have regular eye tests. Having an eye test will not only tell you whether you require visual correction such as glasses or contact lenses, but it will also serve as an important eye health check.

An optician can spot early eye problems and risk factors as well as general health conditions when examining your eyes during a sight test. This article will explore in more detail the importance of getting regular eye checks.

How often should you have an eye test?

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Ideally, you should have an eye test every two years. However, your optometrist may advise more regular annual eye examinations if you have diabetes or a family history of glaucoma.

Having diabetes means that you are at greater risk of developing eye problems such as diabetic retinopathy which can lead to loss of vision. Early detection of diabetic retinopathy can prevent it from developing and is much easier to treat.

Children who wear glasses and adults over the age of 70 may also be advised by their optometrist to have eye tests more frequently.

It is important for children to have routine eye checks so that visual problems such as squint and lazy eye can be treated early on. It is normal for your baby to have a number of routine eye checks during the first few years of their life so that any immediate visual issues from birth can be detected.

Preventing damage and sight loss

Most sight loss and eye damage can be prevented which is why it is important to have regular eye tests. Comprehensive eye examinations are not only necessary to ensure good vision but also to spot the following eye diseases:

  •  Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – damage to part of the retina known as the macula. AMD results in blurred or total vision loss in the centre of a person’s visual field.
  • Cataracts – the clouding of the eye’s lens and the leading cause of vision loss.
  • Diabetic retinopathy – affects those with diabetes and is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retina (back of the eye).
  • Glaucoma – a group of eye conditions causing damage to the optic nerve. It is one of the leading causes of blindness in people over the age of 60.

Serious health conditions are often detected in their early stages through eye tests. This includes diabetes, cancer, and high cholesterol. Your optician will look at the condition of the blood vessels in your retina and evaluate their health. This also serves as an idea to the overall health of the blood vessels in your body.

Identifying a refractive error

Refractive errors including long-sightedness (hyperopia), short-sightedness (myopia) and astigmatism can affect your day-to-day life and result in headaches, eyestrain and regular squinting.

Improving your quality of life

Having regular eye tests will determine whether you need vision correction, which can improve your day-to-day life activities. Having a comprehensive eye test can help you to address problems you may have with visual tasks such as recognising hazards on the road when driving or seeing the board in class.

Detecting developmental issues

Eye tests can detect learning and reading difficulties in children and prevent adverse effects in the classroom. Children are often unable to identify visual problems especially if they don’t have any awareness of what vision is supposed to look like.

Eye examinations for children will ensure that vision problems such as squint, lazy eye or myopia are treated early on.

How much does an eye test cost?

The price for an eye test can vary depending on the optician’s practice. In the UK, eye tests typically range between £20-£35.

Who is entitled to a free sight test?

Some people are entitled to free NHS sight tests; this depends on your age, the current condition of your eyes and personal circumstances. Free sight tests are usually given to children, older people, the blind and those receiving government assistance.

What happens during an eye exam?

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During an eye exam, your vision and your eye health is evaluated using a variety of tests. Each test will look at a different part of your eye health or vision. Your optometrist will use a variety of instruments to look at both the internal and external structures of your eyes to check for abnormalities.

The types of checks performed by your optometrist include:

  • Pre-screening – your optometrist will take pictures of the back of your eyes and test the pressure of your eyes to check for abnormalities. Auto-refraction is also carried out at this stage and provides the optician with a rough estimate of the patient’s glasses prescription. Tonometry is used to measure the pressure inside the eye.
  • Eye exam – your optometrist will confirm your medical history before checking your vision. The vision test known as refraction includes the use of the letter chart whereby the optician places different lenses in front of the patient’s eye in addition to using other techniques in order to find the best prescription for them. They will also perform an auto-refraction. These procedures will help them to determine your prescription.
  • Eye health check – the optometrist will use an ophthalmoscope and various other instruments including a slit-lamp and a visual field machine, to check the condition of the eye’s internal structures.
  • Other tests – additional tests will be carried out based on your medical history or if there are changes in your vision.

Taking care of your eyes

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Taking care of your eyes and following a good eye care regime is extremely important in addition to getting regular eye tests. The following steps can be taken to keep eyes healthy and in tip top condition:

  • Stop smoking
  • Wear sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB protection when outdoors
  • Follow a healthy and balanced diet
  • If using a computer screen, take regular breaks to avoid computer vision syndrome
  • Wearing goggles in the work place if required
  • Wearing safety eyewear when playing sports or carrying out DIY
  • Exercising regularly

If you notice any changes in your vision, you should see your GP or optician no matter whether you’re due for an eye test or not.

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