When it comes to taking care of your eyes, the most common question that I get asked is, “How often should I get my eye exam?”
Even if you don’t face any vision problem, you should get one every 2 years. Sometimes changes to vision are subtle and the test can help detect those. Apart from vision change, it can also detect conditions like macular degeneration, cataract and glaucoma in its early stages. Even diabetes and high blood pressure can be detected. There might be changes to the blood vessels at the back of the eyes, which can be spotted by the optometrist. They will refer you to your GP in such a case.
If you have a history of eye problems, your optometrist might recommend more frequent eye tests.
People above 70 and children below 16 years of age should get their eyes tested every year.
Who gets free eye tests?
You can get free eye exams with NHS funded eye tests or optical vouchers. You can check the criteria for these here. You’ll be able to get a free NHS eye test once every two years, or more if your optometrist recommends it. It can be due to conditions like these -
- If you have diabetes
- If you’re a child with prescription
- If you’re aged 70 or over
- If you’re aged 40 or over and have a history of glaucoma
Apart from these, if your eye doctor doesn’t see the clinical need for a more frequent eye test, you’ll have to get a private one.
But fret not! You can still avail a free eye test in Walkden or Bury (Manchester), at our stores. You don’t need an NHS voucher for that, simply book an online appointment for an eye test and walk-in at the scheduled time.
Eye test for kids
It is recommended that you should start getting your kids’ eyes tested before they are about to start school. It will help detect problems early and avoidant issues in learning and development at the school. Any problems that might be detected early There are children specific charts that have shapes and pictures that can be easily recognised by small children. And as mentioned earlier, you should take them for eye exams at least once every year. It can help detect conditions like lazy eyes and squints much earlier.
How long does an eye test take
That depends on the complexity and your age, but most eye exams take around 20 to 30 minutes. The optometrist will begin by asking if it is a routine test or if there are any specific concerns. You should also take your glasses or contact lenses along with you.
Here’s what you can expect during the whole process
Eyesight test - This is the most common and basic step - your optometrist will check your distance, intermediate and near vision through a Snellen Chart (where the letters become smaller line by line). They will place a series of lenses in front of your eyes to ascertain which ones are perfect.
These days acuity checking devices are more popular (including the free eye tests in Bury and Walkden!)
Pupils - It will involve a penlight or any other source to determine how your pupils contract when exposed to it.
Eye muscles - The ophthalmic practitioner will ask you to look in different directions or at a source of light to test your eye muscles. They also might blow a puff of air on to your eyes to check the pressure inside.
Slit-lamp test - It is a magnifying device which examines external parts like eyelids, cornea and iris.
Internal test - Using a special light source like ophthalmoscope or a highly magnified lens, eye parts like retina and optic nerve will be examined. Your pupils may have to be dilated for this.
Visual field - This test is done to ascertain your blind spots. You may not notice these in the early stages without the help of an eye test. The optometrist will ask you to focus on a particular spot at the centre of a machine and respond to surrounding lights in the periphery of your vision.
Colour blindness - The eye exam may also involve a colour blindness test. The expert will use cards which have a variety of coloured dots in patterns that form different shapes and numbers.
Different types of eye healthcare professionals
Optician - An optician is someone who specialises in fitting prescription and non-prescription lenses. They can also dispense aids like magnifying glasses and telescopic lenses. They help you choose glasses and other vision correction aids. You can ask them questions related to taking care of your glasses and sunglasses.
Optometrist - They usually do eye tests and can help detect eye disorders like glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataract. They are the ones who normally prescribe glasses. They may refer you to your GP or an ophthalmologist or orthoptist if they find any condition that needs attention.
Orthoptists - They’re qualified professionals that specialise in diagnosing and treating eye disorders. They particularly specialise in eye movement disorders like squints, double vision and lazy eyes.
Ophthalmologist - They are medical doctors who have specialised surgical care for the eyes. Thye deal with a host of issues and disorders like eye trauma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy.
After the eye test
Once the exam is over, the optometrist will discuss your eye health with you. This will include things like if you need vision correction or - if you already wear glasses - a change in prescription. You can also discuss any questions that you may have related to your vision.