Before your eye examination

You should have your eye health checked by visiting an optometrist (optician) for an eye examination (eye test)

Typically, you will have an eye examination if it is time for you to have a regular check-up, you have concerns about your vision or your existing eye condition seems to have changed.

Regular eye examinations

Most people should have their eyes tested at least once every two years.

Having an eye examination is an important health check for your eyes. Your optometrist will be able to tell you how often you need an eye examination. Most people should have an eye examination every two years even if you have no problems with your vision and don't need glasses. 

It is rare for eye conditions to cause pain and sometimes the changes to your sight can be very difficult to notice. Some eye conditions which can cause loss of sight, for example Glaucoma, don't cause any symptoms - you can't tell you have them. An eye test can detect eye conditions early, which means you can get any treatment available before your sight is badly affected.

Find out more about eye conditions.

Concerns about your vision

If you have any worries about your vision, then an eye examination with an optometrist is usually the best place to start. Optometrists are trained to check the health of your eyes, detect any eye conditions which may need more attention and to test your vision to see if you need glasses. 

If they find any signs of an eye condition, they will refer you to the right person at the hospital or ask your GP to do this. 

Most high streets have an optometrist practice where you can make an appointment for an eye examination. You can normally call or just walk in for an appointment - you don't need a letter or referral from your doctor. You can also find the names and addresses of your local optometrists through the NHS Choices website.

Changes in your vision

It is important to go for an eye examination with an optometrist if:

  • you can't see as clearly as you used to
  • you have difficulty seeing distant objects
  • you have difficulty reading.

If you notice any change like these then you should have an eye test, even if you aren't due to have one.

You should go to a hospital accident and emergency room as soon as possible if you:

  • have a sudden change in vision
  • lose all or part of your vision in one eye or both eyes
  • have an accident involving your eyes
  • suddenly start seeing flashing lights or floaters in your vision.

Concerns about having an eye test

If you are worried about having an eye examination, it's important to know that most people don't have an eye condition. Your sight changes naturally as you age and for many people glasses are all that is needed to see clearly. 

But if you have developed an eye condition, detecting it early can make a difference to treatments and how your sight may be affected in the future. 

Eye examinations are quick and painless, and for some people they are free. 

Any changes you notice in your vision should be checked by your optometrist. Many eye conditions can be treated, and the earlier the treatment starts the better. Even if you do develop an eye condition, this doesn't mean that you will lose your sight.

Eye examination costs

If you do have to pay, eye test charges vary but you can expect the fee to be between £17 and £30. Ask your local optometrists what they charge.

Free and reduced charges for eye tests

If you answer 'yes' to any of these questions you are entitled to NHS free eye tests.

  • Are you aged 60 or over?
  • Are you under 16, or under 19 and in full-time education?
  • Do you live in Scotland?
  • Do you or your partner receive income support, family credit, income based job seekers allowance, pension credit guarantee, and are entitled to or named on a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate, or are named on valid HC2 certificate?
  • Do you have diabetes or glaucoma?
  • Are you age 40 or over and have a close relative with glaucoma?
  • Does a hospital ophthalmologist say you are at risk of glaucoma?
  • Are you registered blind or partially sighted?
  • Are you entitled to vouchers for complex lenses?

NHS rules may change from time to time. If you think you qualify for free eye tests, speak to your optometrist before you have your eyes tested and they will ask you to sign a NHS Sight Test Form.

Disclaimer: This information aims to help you get the eye test that is right for you. However, the RNIB cannot recommend or endorse any individual optometrist or give any assurance in relation to any particular eye test. If you are unhappy with the service you receive and cannot resolve it with your optometrist, you can contact the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS) on 020 7261 1017.

Further information and support

RNIB Helpline [link to Helpline page] is your direct line to the support, advice and products you need from RNIB and Action for Blind People to remain independent. We'll put you in touch with the people, services and organisations there to help, both locally and nationally, including voluntary groups and support from social services. Call us on 0303 123 9999 or email helpline@rnib.org.uk.

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