What is an eye test?

Eye tests are an important way to check that your vision is as good as it can be, and to make sure you're wearing the correct glasses or contact lenses if you need them.

However, eye tests don't just check whether you need glasses. They also check for potential conditions such as diabetes, cataracts, glaucoma (where the optic nerve is damaged in the eye) and macular degeneration (an age-related condition that affects the middle part of the vision). Early detection makes treating these conditions easier and more effective.


How often should I have my eyes tested?

For adults and children with healthy eyes, the NHS recommends an eye test every two years. More frequent check-ups are recommended for:

• Children who wear glasses

• People with diabetes (who aren't already having annual retinal screening)

• People aged 40 or over with a family history of glaucoma

• People aged 70 or over, if necessary

• People with an eye condition that needs monitoring more often

Your optician knows your eye health best and will recommend how often you should have your eyes checked.


What happens during an eye test?

Your optician will thoroughly test your eyesight, at both near and far distances. They'll also check how your eyes change focus between near and far objects.

They'll look for eye conditions such as cataracts, which become more common as we grow older. They'll also examine the general health of your eyes, looking for any sign of conditions such as diabetes, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

You may also have other tests:

• An eye pressure test (where a puff of air is blown into your eye to check for early signs of glaucoma)

• A visual field test (where you monitor flashing lights on a screen. This also tests for early signs of glaucoma)

• A digital retinal photograph (this gives your optician a record of your eye health so they can monitor changes over time)

The time taken to complete your eye test will vary according to your individual needs, but will generally last between 30 minutes and an hour. If you have more complex needs, it may take longer.


Do I have to pay for an eye test?

Eye tests are funded by the NHS if:

• You're under 16

• You're aged 16, 17 or 18 and in full-time education

• You're over 60

• You're registered as sight impaired (partially sighted), or severely sight impaired (blind)

• You've been diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma

• You're aged 40 or over, and your mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter has been diagnosed with glaucoma

• You've been advised by an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) that you're at risk of glaucoma

• Your optician has advised you're eligible for an NHS Complex Lenses voucher

• You're a prisoner on leave from prison

• You're a UK resident having an eye test in Scotland

You are entitled to free eye tests if you receive any of the following benefits:

• Income Support

• Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (not Contribution-based)

• Pension Credit Guarantee Credit

• Income-based Employment and Support Allowance (not Contribution-based)

• Universal Credit

If you're entitled to, or named on, an NHS Tax Credit exemption certificate or on a low income and named on a valid HC2 (full help) or HC3 (partial help) certificate, you may also get free eye tests.

If you're not sure, talk to your optician, or visit the NHS website for advice.


Next steps

• Have your eyes tested at least every two years, even if your vision is fine. Some eye problems don't cause symptoms until they've progressed quite far

• Children should also have an eye test at least every two years, or more often if your optician advises and should always have one before they start school

• You may be entitled to a free eye test. Talk to your optician for advice