Preparing for your eye examination
What to take with you:
Things to tell your optometrist in advance:
Everyone should have their eyes tested at least once every two years even if they don't need glasses.
Having an eye examination is an important health check for your eyes. Some people should have their eyes tested more frequently, for example, if you have a family history of eye disease.
Optometrists are trained to examine your eyes for spectacles and contact lenses but most importantly to detect signs of eye disease. Early detection of disease increases your chance of successful treatment.
If you have any worries about your vision, then an eye examination with an optometrist is usually the best place to start. If they find any signs of an eye condition, they'll refer you to the right person at the hospital or ask your GP to do this. If you have a sudden change in your vision you should speak to an eye care or medical professional immediately to get advice. Usually, this will mean going to Accident and Emergency, but some sudden changes can be investigated by your local optometrist.
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. If you're housebound you're entitled to a home visit from an optometrist. You can also find the names and addresses of your local optometrists and the details of who provides home visits in your area through the NHS Choices website.
If you're entitled to an NHS eye test you'll be set a recall date for your next eye examination. If you choose to have a test before this date, you may be charged a private fee. This is because optometrists are only permitted to test your eyes at the recommended standard eye test intervals. However it's important to know that if you or your doctor are concerned about a change in your vision, the optometrist can see you on the NHS. You must tell them when booking the appointment of the reason for your visit and then you can check whether to expect a fee. Don't put off an eye examination because you're not due yet, it's important to discuss any concerns with the optometrist so that you get the care you need.
It is important to go for an eye examination with an optometrist if:
If you notice a gradual change like this you should have an eye test, even if you aren't due to have one.
You should go to a hospital Accident and Emergency department as soon as possible if you:
Some areas provide emergency cover from a local optometrist, if so, you could call your optometrist for advice as to where to get help.
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. Most people will require reading and distance spectacles as they get older, it's important to remember that this isn't a sign that your eyes are unhealthy. Wearing spectacles won't make your sight worse.
If you've 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're free.
You don't have to buy spectacles every time you have an eye examination. Don't let the cost of glasses put you off having your routine eye test. The College of Optometrists recommends that if you need glasses, to buy them from the optometrist who tested your eyes. It's important you choose an optometrist where you intend to buy your spectacles. However, you're entitled to take a copy of your prescription to buy glasses somewhere else.
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'll lose your sight.
If you do have to pay, eye test charges vary depending on the optometrist you choose and whether they offer any additional tests. Ask your local optometrists what they charge and what's included in the fee.
If you answer "yes" to any of these questions you are entitled to NHS free eye tests.
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'll 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, RNIB can't recommend or endorse any individual optometrist or give any assurance in relation to any particular eye test. If you're unhappy with the service you receive and can't resolve it with your optometrist, you can contact the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS).