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NHS website - Why are eye tests important?

Why are eye tests important?

Regular eye tests are important because your eyes don't usually hurt when something is wrong. A sight test is a vital health check for your eyes that can pick up early signs of eye conditions before you're aware of any symptoms – many of which can be treated if found early enough.

What your eye test will show

A sight test will show if you need to:

  • get glasses for the first time
  • change your current glasses

A sight test will also include a general health check that can pick up early signs of eye disease before you’re aware of any symptoms. Some health conditions can affect the eyes such as:

Your sight test

Optometrists recommend that most people should get their eyes tested every two years. However, in some circumstances, they may recommend more frequent NHS sight tests; for example, if you:

  • are a child wearing glasses
  • have diabetes
  • are aged 40 or over and have a family history of glaucoma
  • are aged 70 or over

The way a sight test is carried out is governed by law. A sight test will identify:

  • what your level of vision is
  • whether you need glasses to correct your sight

Your eyes and the area around them will be examined, to look for signs of injury, disease or abnormality.

During your appointment, you may see more than one practitioner, for example:

  • an optometrist or ophthalmic medical practitioner, who tests your sight to check the quality of your vision and your eye health
  • a dispensing optician, who fits your glasses

If you already wear glasses or contact lenses, remember to take them with you to your sight test. You may be asked to wear them during the test.

What happens after a sight test?

At the end of your sight test, your ophthalmic practitioner will discuss the results with you. They will tell you whether:

  • your sight needs correcting
  • you need to be referred for further investigation

They will also give you an optical statement or prescription to say that:

  • you don’t need glasses
  • your current glasses don’t need changing
  • you have been given a new or changed prescription
  • you are being referred to your GP or an eye clinic 

You can take your new or changed prescription to any supplier to have your glasses made up.

If you’re entitled to an NHS optical voucher, this will also be given to you after your NHS sight test. You can also take your voucher to any supplier to buy glasses or contact lenses, providing they accept optical vouchers. For more information, see Am I entitled to an NHS optical voucher?

Children under 16 and individuals who are registered blind or partially sighted can only have their appliances dispensed by or under the supervision of a registered medical practitioner, registered optometrist or registered dispensing optician.

Read the answers to more questions about NHS services and treatments.

Further information:


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