Look after your eyes

Find out why regular eye tests are important and how a healthy lifestyle can help you maintain good vision.

Why are regular eye tests (sight tests) so important?

It's easy to neglect your eyes because they rarely hurt when there's a problem.

Having an eye test won’t only tell you if you need new glasses or a change of prescription, it’s also an important eye health check. It 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?

Optometrists recommend that people over 40 and people from black or minority ethnic groups have a sight test every two years (or more frequently if advised).

What should I do if I notice a change in my sight?

Visit your optician or GP if you're concerned with any aspect of your vision at any time.

Are some people more at risk from eye disease than others?

Anyone can develop sight problems, but some people have a higher risk of eye disease. It's especially important to have regular eye tests if you are:

  • above 60 years old
  • from certain ethnic groups; for example, people from African-Caribbean communities are at greater risk of developing glaucoma and diabetes, and people from south Asian communities are at a greater risk of developing diabetesDiabetic retinopathy, in which the retina becomes damaged, is a common complication of diabetes
  • someone with a learning disability
  • from a family with a history of eye disease

Can I get help with the cost of a sight test or glasses?

Lots of people are entitled to free NHS-funded sight tests and an optical voucher, which will help with the cost of glasses or contact lenses.

Find out more about eyecare entitlement, including mobile sight tests when an optometrist visits you in your own home.

What about my child’s sight?

Children do not usually complain about their sight, but may show signs of not being able 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, or one eye turning in or out.

If your child is having any sort of sight problems, take them to an optometrist for further investigation.

Children don’t have to be able to read letters to have their eyes examined. Like adults, children should have regular eye checks around every two years.

What else can I do to look after my eyes?

Give up smoking

Smokers are much more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration and cataracts compared to non-smokers. Find out about the help and support available to stop smoking.

Get moving

While it might seem odd that exercise can help the eyes, it can be important. Research shows that exercise may reduce the risk of sight loss which can occur from high blood pressure, diabetes and narrowing or hardening of the arteries.

Eat healthily

A healthy balanced diet, with a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, will benefit your overall health and may help to keep the retina healthy. Get tips on healthy eating.

Drink within the recommended limits

Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of early age-related macular degeneration. The recommended daily alcohol limits are 3-4 units for men and 2-3 units for women. Keep tabs on your drinking with the Alcohol Tracker.

The application calculates the units of alcohol in your drinks, and it helps you work out whether you need to cut down.

Protect your eyes from the sun

Never look at the sun directly, even when something exciting is happening, such as an eclipse. Doing so can cause irreversible damage to your eyesight and even lead to blindness. Several studies also suggest that sunlight exposure is a risk factor for cataracts.

Wearing a wide-brimmed hat or sunglasses can help to protect your eyes from UV rays. The College of Optometrists recommends buying good quality, dark sunglasses (these needn’t be expensive). Look for glasses carrying the "CE" mark and the British Standard BS EN 1836:2005, which ensures that the sunglasses offer a safe level of ultraviolet protection.

Eye tests for adults

In this video, learn about the importance of eye tests and how to detect symptoms that could lead to problems with your eyesight.

Media last reviewed: 09/09/2013

Next review due: 09/09/2015

Page last reviewed: 20/12/2012

Next review due: 20/12/2014

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The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Maghaberry said on 05 February 2012

It is hard to believe a regular eye test is important as most people have to pay and arrange private eye checks. The NHS only pays for some patient groups, like the poor. This is unlike other health services which are provided to all free at the point of delivery. It would eb helpful if this article explained why test were important but not provided to all through the NHS.

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Phraseologist said on 07 March 2011

I agree. My understanding is that there is little point going to see your GP unless they have the right equipment and a special interest and training in ophthalmology. There is also the option of your local hospital, as long as it has an 'Eye Casualty' facility (otherwise I think you would need to be referred to a hospital ophthalmologist or surgeon).

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Mr TT said on 03 January 2011

I had difficulty reading in low light conditions and visited my GP as recommended on this page. My GP however said they were not the best person to make a diagnosis and told me to visit a local opitician. I then had to pay for the eye appointment as I do not benefit from free eye care which the NHS does not see as part of my health needs. This page should be updated to refer people to eye doctors rather than GP.

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