I'm Dr Susan Blakeney, I'm an optometrist in community practice

and I'm also advisor to the College of Optometrists

and to the Primary Care Trust in Kent.

Any problems with your eyes?

An eye examination basically checks

to make sure you can see as well and as clearly as possible

and what specs you need, if any, to enable you to do that,

but it also checks, very importantly, the health of your eyes,

so it's important to have that done on a regular basis.

The eye examination doesn't hurt at all.

We normally get you to read the letters on the chart,

then we'll go on to check the health of your eyes by looking inside your eyes

with a torch or by putting your chin onto an instrument called a slit lamp.

We'll then see whether you have eye diseases such as glaucoma

by checking the pressure inside your eyes

and maybe checking your visual fields.

You look into an instrument and indicate

whether you see lights that are flashing round the outside of your vision.

We then go on to make sure you're seeing as well as possible.

Your optometrist will be able to advise you individually

as to how often you ought to have your eyes tested.

It's normally around every two years

but it can vary depending on individual circumstances.

The best thing is to book an eye examination

and ask your optometrist when they'd like to see you again.

The cost of an eye examination will vary from one practice to another.

There is no national guideline as to how much practices should charge.

If you're worried about the cost, the best thing is to phone local practices

and ask them how much they charge for that service.

If you're in certain categories you don't have to pay for a sight test

because the NHS pays for it for you.

Those are basically people who are under 16,

those who are under 19 in full-time education,

people who are over 60.

Also people with various medical conditions,

such as if you're diabetic you don't have to pay for an NHS sight test,

or if you're over 40 with a first-degree relative with glaucoma,

or if you're on certain benefits

such as pension credit or income support.

The people that are entitled to have their employers pay for their sight test

are those that are classed as DSE users,

and you would need to ask your HR department

whether you fall into that category or not.

The days of the NHS spectacles have long gone now,

and now the way it works is the NHS gives people who are eligible,

so generally it's those under 19 or in full-time education

or those that are on low income,

they give them money towards the cost of their spectacles

in the form of a voucher.

You can use that voucher towards the cost of any spectacles

or indeed contact lenses.

It's not true that wearing glasses makes your eyes get worse.

There's no evidence for that.

They get worse because your eyes have grown and you're more short-sighted

or, sadly, because you're getting older

and you need your reading glasses more than you used to.

It's important to have your eyes tested regularly,

even if you feel your vision is still OK.

This is partly to make sure your vision is OK.

You'd be surprised what people don't notice

because your vision can change over time

and you still think it's all right but it's considerably worse than it was.

If you're driving it's important to make sure your vision is A1.

Modern contact lenses are very safe nowadays

and very easy to get used to

and there's very few people that can't get on with them.

If you have any questions about that, ask your optometrist.

It's important to be aware of what is normal sight for you.

We would recommend that everybody is aware

of what is normal in each eye for them.

So a useful little self-help check

is actually to cover one eye and then cover the other eye,

wearing your spectacles if you need them,

and see if your vision is the same as usual in each eye.

It's surprising how many people can lose quite a lot of sight in one eye

without being aware of it.

If you're aware of your sight in each eye, you'll spot it earlier.

People often ask me how they should choose an optometrist.

Like all things, the best thing is to go on personal recommendation,

so ask your friends, your neighbours, your GP

if there's anyone local in particular they would recommend.

Once you've found an optometrist you're happy with, stick with them

because they will then have the benefit

of having all your clinical notes from the past to refer to,

and that will mean they can give you a better service

as far as letting you know whether your eyes have changed

and whether you're likely to have problems with any new spectacles.