How often should I have my eyes tested?

Most of us don’t think about the health of our eyes unless our vision changes. But a regular eye test is the best way to pick up many eye conditions early so you can get treatment as soon as possible. The College of Optometrists recommends that everyone aged over 16 should have an eye test every two years and younger children should be tested every year. 

Your optometrist may suggest that you have an annual eye test if you are over the age of 60 or there is a family history of glaucoma. If you’re worried about your vision or eye health, always seek professional advice from your optometrist or GP as soon as possible — don’t wait until your next check-up is due.

How important is an eye test?

An eye test can pick up more than problems with your eye health. Your optometrist can also uncover issues with your general health by looking at your eyes, and in some cases, before you even notice symptoms. Optometrists regularly pick up health issues such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Your optometrist will also evaluate how well you can see and whether you need glasses.

What’s involved in an eye test?

Your eye test (or eye examination) will be performed by an optometrist in the privacy of an examination room. It’s important to take your glasses with you. If you wear daily contact lenses, take a spare pair with you, or if you wear weekly contact lenses, bring your case, as you will have to remove your lenses for the test.

You will be asked about your eyes, your current vision, your glasses or contacts and whether you have any concerns that need investigation. Your optometrist will also ask you about your general health, whether you are taking any medication and if you have any family members with eye conditions.

The tests

Your optometrist will carry out a variety of tests to thoroughly check your eye health and vision. This will usually include:

Tonometer or ‘eye puff’ test: As you look through an eyepiece, air is puffed onto the surface of your eye and the internal pressure of each eye is measured. This test helps detect the early signs of glaucoma.

Autorefractor test: You will be asked to stare at a picture that appears closer and then further away. This test monitors how well your eyes are focusing and can also detect long and short-sightedness.

Digital retinal photograph: Your optometrist takes an image of the back of each eye (your retinas) to assess their health. This image is kept so that it can be used to make future comparisons.

Retinoscopy: Your eyes will be checked to see how well they focus, using red and green lines at a distance. While you gaze at the lines, the optometrist will shine a light into each eye in turn.

Snellen test or ‘letter test’: You will be asked to read rows of letters that get progressively smaller, both with and without lenses.

Ophthalmoscope examination: This special torch is used to examine the health of your retinas and optic nerve as well as the blood vessels that supply them. 

Visual field check: Using a series of flashing lights, the optometrist will check your peripheral vision. This test is used to detect the early signs of glaucoma.

Volk lens or ‘slit lamp test’: This special microscope is used to examine your corneas (front surface of your eyes), irises (coloured part of your eyes that surrounds your pupils) and lenses, to ensure that they are not damaged.

What is an OCT scan?

An OCT scan (optical coherence tomography) takes a 3D image that captures detailed images of your retinas, going beyond their surface and through their different layers. Measuring the thickness of these layers helps to detect the early signs of many eye conditions before any noticeable effects on your vision develop. This scan isn’t included as part of a standard eye test but is usually offered for a small additional fee.

The results of your eye test

Your optometrist will discuss the results of your eye test. They will let you know if you need a new prescription for your glasses or contact lenses and whether any eye conditions were detected. They’ll talk you through your treatment options and may refer you to an ophthalmologist, a doctor specialising in eye health. 

Tips to keep your eyes healthy

As well as having regular eye tests, there are several other ways you can look after your eyes, including: 

  • Adopting the 20-20-20 rule when using digital screens — every 20 minutes, rest your eyes from the screen for 20 seconds and focus on something 20 feet (6 metres) away
  • Eating a balanced healthy diet, which includes leafy greens, oily fish, nuts, dairy foods and citrus fruits — these foods contain vitamins and nutrients essential for good eye health
  • Giving up smoking — smoking increases the chances of developing a number of eye conditions and of damaging your optic nerve
  • Staying hydrated
  • Wearing good sunglasses that block out 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays — look for sunglasses with the safety mark British Standard BS EN ISO 12312-1:2013
  • Wear protective eye goggles if your job or hobbies involve flying debris, and wear a safety helmet if you play a high-risk sport such as tennis, squash or hockey

Remember, eye tests don’t just keep your vision sharp. They can pick up the early signs of eye disease before you notice any symptoms so you can start treatment as soon as possible.

We hope you've found this article useful, however, it cannot be a substitute for a consultation with a specialist

If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.

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Cahoot Care Marketing

Niched in the care sector, Cahoot Care Marketing offers a full range of marketing services for care businesses including: SEO, social media, websites and video marketing, specialising in copywriting and content marketing.

Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.

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Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager

Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.

Catriona Shaw, Lead Editor

Catriona has an English degree from the University of Southampton and more than 12 years’ experience copy editing across a range of complex topics. She works with a diverse team of writers to create clear and compelling copy to educate and inform.

Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing

Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing. He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.