An eye examination is a series of tests performed by an ophthalmologist, optometrist, or orthoptist assessing vision and ability to focus on and discern objects, as well as other tests and examinations pertaining to the eyes. Health care professionals often recommend that all people should have periodic and thorough eye examinations as part of routine primary care, especially since many eye diseases are asymptomatic. Eye examinations may detect potentially treatable blinding eye diseases, ocular manifestations of systemic disease, or signs of tumours or other anomalies of the brain. Ideally, the eye examination consists of an external examination, followed by specific tests for visual acuity, pupil function, extraocular muscle motility, visual fields, intraocular pressure and ophthalmoscopy through a dilated pupil.
Why should I have an eye examination?
An eye examination should be part of everyone’s normal health routine and is an important part of looking after your eyes. You may think of this as just an eye test, but it’s more than a simple test of your sight. Your optometrist is able to check your eye health and other general health issues during an eye examination and give advice.
Here are some important reasons to have a regular eye examination and look after your eyes:
- It can detect early signs of eye conditions before you notice them.
- It can also detect other general health problems.
- Good vision helps you work and play safely and comfortably.
- It leads to a better quality of life.
- Your eyes are the only pair you’ve got.
- If you lose your eyesight it may never be replaced.
- Unlike your teeth, your eyes do not usually hurt if there is something wrong.
How often should I have my eyes examined?
Most people should have their eyes examined every two years, however you may need to have an examination more often depending on your age and medical history. If you are over 40 years old or at particular risk of developing eye conditions such as glaucoma, your optometrist will recommend how regularly you need to have an eye examination. Of course, if you have any problems with your eyes, or notice any changes in your sight, then you should see your optometrist too.
What happens in an eye examination?
An eye examination is carried out by an optometrist and usually takes about 20-30 minutes. Sometimes it can take longer if you need extra tests, but this is to make sure you can see as well as possible. As well as testing your sight, the optometrist will check the health of your eyes and look for signs of general health problems.
Frequently asked questions
What is an optometrist?
An optometrist is a health professional who is trained to examine your eyes to look for signs of eye disease and to check your sight.
Does my GP need to refer me to an optometrist?
No. If you have any problems with your eyes, make an appointment with your optometrist of your choice. They are able to examine eyes more thoroughly as they have the necessary equipment to do so. You can make this appointment without visiting your GP. If needs be, your optometrist can then refer you to your GP.
Do I need to see the same optometrist each time?
No. You can make an appointment with any optometrist who provides NHS services. Please note, it is beneficial to visit the same practice for your sight test in order to maintain continuity as this will be better for your care.
Here is what’s usually involved:
History and symptoms
At the start of the eye examination, your optometrist will ask why you are having your eyes examined, whether it is a routine check-up or if you have come for a specific reason. If you are experiencing problems with your eyes or vision, your optometrist will ask you:
- if you’ve had any symptoms, how long you have had them and whether any changes have happened suddenly or slowly over a period of time
- about your general health, including any medication you are taking
- whether you suffer from headaches
- whether you have any close relatives with a history of eye problems.
- about your previous glasses or contact lenses
- about the kind of work you do and whether you play sports or have any hobbies.
Examining your eyes
Your optometrist will examine both the outside and inside of your eyes. This will allow the optometrist to assess the health of your eyes and may identify any other underlying medical problems.
The inside of your eyes will be examined using an ophthalmoscope, which is a special torch, or with a slit lamp and a hand held lens in front of your eye. These instruments will allow your optometrist to examine structures such as:
- the lens inside your eye, to see if you have signs of cataract
- your optic nerve where it enters your eye (which is where signs of glaucoma may be spotted)
- your retina
- your pupil reflexes.
They will also ask you to read letters on a chart, which is one of the most familiar parts of an eye examination.
Many optometrists now offer extra tests, such as photography of the interior and exterior of the eye, for which an additional charge may be made. Extra tests are also needed for contact lens fitting and check-ups.
Ask your optometrist if you have any questions.
Remember to take your glasses or contact lenses with you when you attend an eye examination. Your vision will be measured both with and without glasses or lenses to check for any problems with your eyesight. The optometrist would normally assess:
- your distance vision (for TV and driving)
- your near vision (for reading and close work)
- your intermediate vision (for computer use).
Your optometrist will then carry out a series of tests to measure the type and extent of any problem with your vision. You will then be asked to choose between different lenses to see which ones help the quality and clarity of your sight.
Eye movements and co-ordination
Eye movements and co-ordination are checked to make sure that both eyes are working together, and that undue stress is not being placed on the eye muscles. Good muscle balance is particularly important if you use computers or read a lot.
Eye examinations at home (domiciliary sight tests)
A domiciliary sight test is a sight test which an optometrist or ophthalmic medical practitioner (OMP) carries out in the patient’s normal home or a day centre. Optometrists or OMPs who provide domiciliary services are experienced in dealing with patients with various mental and physical disabilities. If you have suffered a stroke, have learning disabilities or do not speak English well, you can still have an effective sight test.
What happens after the eye examination?
At the end of the examination, your optometrist will discuss the results with you. If there's anything you don't understand, ask. Your optometrist will give you a copy of your prescription and discuss with you their recommendations and different options available to you; if you need glasses, contact lenses etc. If you need medical treatment for an eye condition, your optometrist may refer you to the eye department at a hospital. Your optometrist will discuss this with you and notify your GP about this if necessary. Your optometrist will tell you when you should have your next eye examination.
Patients do not have to buy new spectacles following a sight test, and they do not have to buy them from the optometrist or medical practitioner who provided the sight test.
Free NHS Eye Tests available at JB Eyecare
Everything You Need To Know
If you are a UK resident, you can get a free NHS eye examination in Scotland. This is not just to test your sight, it isn't the same as ones you may have had at work for example. If you are a UK resident who is living abroad part-time or visiting Scotland, you may also be entitled to a free sight test. You will need to ask an optician's practice whether you can have a free NHS eye examination.
How often should I have an NHS eye examination?
You can have a free eye examination once every two years if you are between 16 and 59 years old.
You can have a free eye examination once a year if you:
- are under 16
- are 60 or over
- have diabetes
Your optometrist will tell you if you need a follow-up appointment. If you have problems with your eyes before your next NHS eye examination is due, you can arrange another appointment as soon as you need it.
Are any eye tests not included in the free NHS eye examination?
Yes. The free NHS eye examination only covers certain tests and procedures. Ask your optometrist for more about this.
NHS optical vouchers
NHS optical vouchers are available to assist towards cost of glasses for qualifying clients and children.
You are entitled to an optical voucher for help towards the cost of your glasses or contact lenses if you:
- are under 16
- are 16, 17 or 18 and in full-time education
- are a prisoner on leave from prison
- are eligible for an NHS complex lens voucher – your optician can advise you about your entitlement
You also qualify for an optical voucher if you:
- get Income Support
- get Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- get Income-based Employment and Support Allowance
- get Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
- get tax credits and meet the criteria.
- get Universal Credit and meet the criteria.
- have a low income and are named on a valid NHS HC2 certificate for full help with health costs.
You may be entitled to an optical voucher if you have a low income and are named on a valid NHS HC3 certificate for partial help with health costs.
The leaflet 'A quick guide to help with health costs' (HCS2) tells you if you are entitled to help with the cost of glasses or lenses. This is available from the NHS helpline or on the internet (www.scotland.gov.uk/healthcosts).
The benefits of having an NHS Eye Test from JB Eyecare:
- Highly professional customer service with a smile.
- Ask about or accidental damage replacement on our prescription lenses.
- Free P&P on all orders over £99.
- All JB Eyecare products come with 12 month UK manufacturers warranty.