Why are regular eye tests so important?
It's easy to neglect your eyes because they often do not hurt when there's a problem.
Having an eye test will not just tell you if you need new glasses or a change of prescription – it's also an important eye health check.
An optician can spot many general health problems and early signs of eye conditions before you're aware of any symptoms, many of which can be treated if found early enough.
How often should I have an eye test?
The NHS recommends that you should get your eyes tested every 2 years (more often if advised by your ophthalmic practitioner or optometrist).
Find out if you can get an eye test for free on the NHS
What should I do if I notice a change in my sight?
Some people are more at risk. It's particularly important to have regular eye tests if you're:
- older than 60
- from a certain ethnic group – people from African-Caribbean communities are at greater risk of developing glaucoma, for example, and people from south Asian and African-Caribbean communities are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes (diabetic retinopathy, where the retina becomes damaged, is a common complication of diabetes)
- someone with a learning disability
- from a family with a history of eye disease
What about my child's sight?
Children often do not complain about their sight, but they may show signs of being unable to see properly.
Things to look out for include:
- sitting close to the TV
- holding objects very close to their face
- blinking a lot
- eye rubbing
- one eye turning in or out
- a white reflection in your child's pupil
There are routine eye checks and tests for children but, if you think your child is having any sort of sight problems, take them to an optician for further investigation. NHS sight tests at opticians are free for children under 16 and for young people under 19 in full-time education.
Children do not have to be able to read letters to have their eyes examined.
What else can I do to look after my eyes?
Give up smoking
If you smoke you're much more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration, which is the most common cause of sight loss in the UK, and cataracts, than people who do not smoke.
10 self-help tips to stop smoking
Protect your eyes from the sun
Getting out in the sun is important for your general health, but you need to protect yourself.
Never look at the sun directly, even when something exciting such as an eclipse is happening. Doing so can cause irreversible damage to your eyesight and even lead to blindness. Several studies also suggest sunlight exposure is a risk factor for cataracts.
Wearing sunglasses can help protect your eyes from UV rays. The College of Optometrists recommends buying sunglasses. Look for glasses carrying the CE mark or the British Standard BS EN ISO 12312-1:2013, which ensures they offer a safe level of ultraviolet protection.