Did you know, three quarters of us admit to experiencing poor eye health, including blurred vision or sore, irritated eyes in the last 12 months, with one in five of us saying this restricts our daily lives and impacts on our ability for enjoyment of everyday activities?

Yet, despite this, nearly 154 million people fail to have their eyes checked once every two years, as recommended; this is a cause for concern.

David Cartwright, Chairman of the charity, Eye Health UK, commented: “Poor uptake of eye tests is probably the biggest risk of the nation’s eye health. A routine eye test can do more than assess your sight. It could save your life. Warning signs for a range of life-threatening illnesses can be detected by your optometrist.


Eye tests explained


It’s important to point out that an eye test assesses far more than your sight. Dr Ian Beasley, Optometrist and Head of Education at the Association of Optometrists (AOP), added: “Every eye test is tailormade, depending on your needs. Everyone should have an eye test every two years, or more often if your optometrist recommends it. A regular eye test is important, not only because it offers a health check for your eyes, but as part of the examination your optometrist will do a number of checks including:

  • Pick up signs of eye disease
  • Check your sight and make it clearer or more comfortable to see
  • Keep you informed about new products or services that can help you

Your optometrist will also check for signs of underlying general health issues that sometimes show in the eyes. This could mean that conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure are first identified during your eye test”.

Certain people may require greater frequency of eye tests, for various reasons. Dr Beasley explained: “You might be at higher risk where you have a family history of an eye condition, from long and short sightedness, or a lazy eye, to something more serious, such as glaucoma. It might be necessary for you to have a more regular check-up, for example, as you get older, to monitor your vision; your optometrist will advise you.


What to expect


Eye tests are a routine, straightforward process, so, what can you expect? “At the start of the appointment, your optometrist will ask if you are visiting for a routine check-up or if you have come for a specific reason. You will be asked what symptoms you have, if any, how long you have had them and whether any changes have happened suddenly or slowly over a period,” explained Dr Susan Blakeney, Clinical Adviser at The College of Optometrists.

"Remember to take your glasses or contact lenses with you if you already use them."

“You will also be asked about your general health, including any medication you’re taking, whether you suffer from headaches, or have any close relatives with a history of eye problems. You will be asked about your previous glasses or contact lenses and they may also ask about the kind of work you do and whether you play sports or have any hobbies.”


What will the optometrist do?


Dr Blakeney continued: “The optometrist will examine both the outside and inside of your eyes. Inside of your eyes will be examined using an ophthalmoscope, which is a special torch, or with a slit lamp and a hand-held lens in front of your eye. The optometrist will determine whether you will need spectacles, and if so, what is the best prescription for you. This will involve you looking at letters on a chart and saying whether various lenses make it blurry.”

“Your optometrist will also carry out tests on your eye muscles to check how your eyes are working together. Sometimes, it may be necessary to check your peripheral vision using a special instrument. This test for certain conditions of the eyes or visual parts of your brain. You man also need an eye pressure test, which is one of the procedures used to detect glaucoma.”