How often should I get my eyes checked?

Depending on whether you’re a new born baby or you have diabetes, the amount of eye examinations you’ll need each year will vary. To break it down for us, we asked Dr CT Pillai how often we need to have an eye test and what we can expect from one.

How often do children need an eye test?

New born babies are often checked for any obvious physical problems 72 hours after birth and again at age 6-8 weeks and sometimes 1-2 years after that. However, this is dependent on where you live and whether there are sufficient funds to provide the service.

If you’re not concerned about your child’s eyesight and do not suspect any problems, it is recommended that children have an eye test before they start school. Once a year is adequate thereafter, however your optometrist will advise you on how often your child needs a test depending on the test results.

A sight test is particularly important if there is a family history of childhood eye problems such as lazy eye or a squint. If any eye problems are detected, these can either be managed by your local optometrist, or if necessary the child will be referred to a paediatric eye clinic at the nearest hospital. It’s important to look for any signs of eye problems and seek advice if you are concerned.

Signs of possible eye problems can include things like:

  • The eyes not pointing in the same direction
  • Difficulty seeing when reading
  • Headaches or eyestrain
  • Being clumsy or lacking hand-eye coordination.

Speak to your optometrist if you have any concerns about your child’s eyes or vision. The earlier a problem is detected the better because treatment is easier while vision is still developing.

How often should adults have an eye test?

It’s recommended that adults between the ages of 18 and 70 have a routine eye test once every two years. The frequency of check-ups will vary of course if there are other conditions that need to be monitored like diabetes, hypertension and glaucoma.

If there is a family history of glaucoma, annual screening is advised. This is because there is a hereditary link with glaucoma and it is important to screen for this by measuring the intraocular pressure and health of the eye and performing a peripheral vision test. This triage of tests is sufficient to detect glaucoma. Anyone over the age of 40 who has a direct family history of glaucoma is entitled to a free NHS sight test every year.

The elderly and diabetics

Anyone over the age of 60 in the UK is entitled to a free NHS sight test every 2 years. From the age of 70 it’s advisable to test your sight annually, which is also free under the NHS. Eye tests are vital to screen for any age related eye conditions which are common among the elderly, like cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration or AMD. If you are over the age of 60 and notice changes in your vision, it’s recommended to see a doctor as soon as possible.

Diabetics are recommended to attend eye screenings every year, which is provided for under the NHS. This is to monitor the back of the eye and to check for any prescription fluctuations.

Most diabetic patients will be under a diabetic screening programme which can be arranged with their G.P.

What can I expect from an eye test?

Firstly, your optometrist will ask you some questions about any visual symptoms you may have and about your general health.

Your vision will be checked, followed by a refraction, which is used to see if you require glasses or not. Your optometrist will check the health of the eyes by shining a light into them and with the use of a microscope.

Intraocular pressure is measured, normally with a little puff of air which is gently blown onto the eye. Muscle function and your pupil responses will be checked and any other relevant tests will be carried out, depending on whether or not it is a routine check-up or there is anything in particular that you are concerned about.

Some optician practices will take a photo of the back of your eye to monitor your eyes at each visit. At the end, your optometrist will give you any recommendations in terms of glasses or eye care, as well as a recommended recall period.

When your eye test is completed and you get your prescription, find out more about how to read it here.

What signs mean you need an eye exam?

There are no specific symptoms to look out for as they vary so vastly from person to person. Anything out of the ordinary with regards to the eyes should be checked. Examples include symptoms such as blurry vision, double vision, ocular pain, headaches, eyestrain, visual field problems and sore/itchy/irritated eyes. It’s always better to be safe and to get your eyes checked rather than leave symptoms go unaddressed.

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