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Vision & Eye Q3 2022

Problems with your eyes or vision? Your optometrist can help

iStock / Getty Images Plus / nadia_bormotova

Dr Paramdeep Bilkhu MCOptom

Clinical Adviser, The College of Optometrists

A significant number of people have been unaware of the beneficial role an optometrist can have in visual and general health.

A recent survey1 showed that only 27% of people in England would visit an optometrist in the first instance if they woke up with an eye problem compared to 42% in Wales, 45% in Northern Ireland, and 51% in Scotland. The good news is that awareness of their role is improving across the UK as more optometrists provide urgent eye care services. Wherever you are in the UK, your optometrist should be your first port of call for all eye health and vision problems.

What is an optometrist? 

An optometrist is a highly trained eye care professional who works in optical practices and hospital clinics, and may also come to your home or day centre. They test your sight and prescribe and dispense glasses, contact lenses and other visual aids. They also examine your eyes to identify eye conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration, some of which they can manage and treat, or refer you to other eye health professionals if necessary. They can also detect other serious health issues including high blood pressure and diabetes.

In addition to an initial degree, a minimum of a year in practice, and a final exam to qualify, many optometrists study for further qualifications. This allows them to prescribe medicines and specialise in different areas so they can manage patients with various eye conditions.

Even without eye health issues, it is still important to visit your optometrists.

What to do with eye health concerns 

For concerns about your vision or other eye symptoms, you should contact your local optometrist to advise if an appointment is necessary. Many practices across the UK offer NHS-funded urgent eye care services and will be able to offer a remote or face-to-face assessment depending on your symptoms. They can identify your eye condition and advise on treatment or refer you for further tests. This means that in most cases, your eye concerns can be managed locally and quickly without the need to visit your GP or hospital eye service.

How often should I visit my optometrist?

Even without eye health issues, it is still important to visit your optometrists for regular sight tests. A sight test is much more than checking your vision. It can also identify any issues you may have with eye health—and even general health—before you become aware of them. Most people should have their eyes examined at least every two years, depending on their clinical circumstances.  

If you are overdue a sight test, contact your optometrist today:


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