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I’m visually impaired, do I still need to have regular eye tests?

Eye test equipment photo

You might have found yourself in the situation that many people with sight loss face, that is going for an eye test and being told that glasses will not help or being told that there is nothing more they can do to improve your eyesight. This is a common experience and one that is very negative.

You probably felt that was the end of your visits to the high street opticians for an eye test; however, you should still continue to have your eyes checked regularly (at least every two years). Although your eye sight is unlikely to improve, regular eye tests will help you to maintain your remaining vision or prevent more rapid decline in remaining vision.

Eye test can detect other problems with your body

Although an eye test with your local Optometrist will check your spectacle prescription to see if you need new glasses, it will also check the health of your eyes and can also pick up signs of a number of serious health conditions, such as:

  • Autoimmune diseases such as Arthritis, Lupus and Multiple Sclerosis
  • Dementia
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High cholesterol
  • Some types of tumour, including melanomas and brain tumours
  • Thyroid disease

So, an eye test will tell you a lot more about your body health, rather than just your eye health.

Glasses will give you the sharpest image possible to maximise your remaining vision

Although your prescription may be unchanged or the optometrist may not be able to improve your vision, but if you glasses are damaged or the lenses scratched, then it will make it more difficult for you to see.

In addition, wearing the wrong glasses will make you more likely to suffer from eye strain, as well as being more likely to misjudge distances, kerbs or trip over obstacles.

If you glasses become loose or out of shape, then go back to your optician to have them adjusted and fitted so that they fit properly. 

Regular eye tests will monitor your eyes and check for other changes in your eyes

Over time our eyes change and most of us will develop cataracts by the time we are 75. If you are visually impaired, then having cataracts will make your remaining vision worse, due to less light reaching the back of your eyes. If you do have cataracts, then your optometrist can refer you to have them removed. There can also be other changes in your eyes and the prescription you need.

If you regularly use eye drops e.g. for glaucoma, then over time you might develop an allergy to the preservatives in the drops. Your Optometrist can monitor changes in your eyes. Also, you may develop dry eyes, as our eyes become drier with age. At an eye test the optometrist can recommend treatments for dry eyes, which range to drops, lid wipes, eye bags etc to improve your symptoms.

You should book an eye test if you experience the following: –

  • Flashing lights
  • New floaters
  • Changes in your vision
  • Frequent headaches
  • Double vision
  • Red eyes (but no pain)
  • Dry and itchy eyes

Should you have eye pain or sudden loss of vision, then this is more of an emergency and you should seek medical attention. 

Free NHS funded eye test

Eye tests are free for people who are registered as sight impaired or severely sight impaired, as well as anyone

  • aged 60 or over
  • aged 40 or over who has a direct family relative with glaucoma
  • under 16 (or 16-18 in full time education)
  • registered as sight impaired or severely sight impaired
  • suffering from diabetes or glaucoma
  • considered at risk of glaucoma by an ophthalmologist
  • prescribed complex lenses under the NHS voucher scheme (+/- 10 or more)

Eye tests are also free if someone (or their partner) receives certain benefits

  • income support or job seekers allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Tax credit exemption certificate/card
  • Pension credit guarantee credit

If you live in Scotland then the rules are different, as everyone is entitled to a free NHS eye test.

If you do need new glasses, then you might also be entitled to an NHS Spectacles Voucher (GOS3) which will help with the cost of new glasses; with some opticians offering a free NHS range.

If you have trouble getting out of your home, then there are companies that will come to your home and conduct a domiciliary eye test.

The above editorial has been written by Anthony Blackman, a practicing Dispensing Optician, Contact Lens Optician. He also undertakes low vision assessments and dry & watery eye clinics. Anthony is Co-Founder and Director of Training at Insight Optical Training and you can contact him via ant.blackman@insight-optical.co.uk