Taking Care of Your Eyes

Taking Care of Your Eyes


The sight test explained

Every sight test is tailor-made depending on your needs and the methods your optometrist prefers to use. (See the note below.) As well as an eye health check, a sight test might detect signs of underlying general health conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Everyone should have a sight test every two years, or more often if your optometrist recommends it.

The following are some important checks which form part of a normal sight test. History and symptoms Your optometrist will ask detailed questions about your eyesight, lifestyle, health and any previous eye problems you or family members may have had. You should bring a list of any medication you take, along with your glasses if you use them, or a previous glasses prescription. Eyesight test Your optometrist will check what you can see – close up and in the distance – usually using special charts of symbols or letters. This may be with or without your glasses. They will then work out whether you need glasses or a change of prescription with a series of tests using different lenses. This will also involve simple questions and you should try to answer these as accurately and honestly as you can. There are no right or wrong answers, so don’t worry. For those who are unable to answer these questions, there are other ways of working out a glasses prescription. This is particularly useful for young children or those with learning difficulties or special educational needs. Your optometrist will also carry out tests on your eye muscles to check how your eyes are working together. Eye health check Your optometrist will examine the inside and outside of your eyes. They will tell you if there are any signs of disease or injury. The equipment used for this will vary from practice to practice. Occasionally your optometrist will need to put drops in your eyes to get a better view of the back of your eye but they will explain this before doing so. Further checks Sometimes it may be necessary to check your peripheral (or side) vision using a special instrument. This tests for certain conditions of the eyes or the visual parts of your brain. You may also need an eye-pressure test, which is one of the procedures used to detect glaucoma. Advice There will be time to talk through the results of your sight test and ask questions. Your optometrist will advise you if you need glasses and make recommendations about the type. They will also tell you if they find any problems with your eyes. If there is something which needs further medical checks, the optometrist will write to your doctor or the eye hospital for you. They will give you a written statement of your results which includes your glasses prescription if you need one. They will also tell you how often you should go for a sight test. The optometrist is also someone who can tell you about how to keep your eyes healthy. So don’t forget the importance of a sight test for you and your family. Your optometrist can do the following.

• Pick up any signs of eye disease – this is usually easier to deal with if found early.

• Check your sight and make it clearer or more comfortable to see.

• Check for signs of underlying general health conditions that sometimes show in the eyes.

• Answer questions and give advice about your eye health and vision.

• Keep you informed about new products or services that can help you. 

Top tips for healthy eyes 

Have regular sight tests As well as an eye health check, a sight test might help detect signs of underlying general health conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Everyone should have a sight test every two years, or more often if your optometrist recommends it. Eat healthily Eating a healthy, balanced diet reduces your risk of eye disease. Include lots of omega-3 fats, found in oily fish, and lutein, found in dark-green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. Vitamins A, C and E are also helpful, so eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. If you have a family history of macular degeneration (losing central vision in the eyes), ask your optometrist about taking nutritional supplements. Wear prescribed glasses Many eye and vision problems develop or increase as we get older. Contrary to the myth, wearing glasses and contact lenses doesn’t make your eyesight worse – they help your eyes work more efficiently. Take regular breaks When you work on something close up, such as a computer, tablet or smartphone, your eye muscles are active. This may cause tiredness and headaches, even in those with normal sight. Follow the 20/20/20 rule – every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds. And don’t forget to blink, as this helps prevent your eyes drying out.+ Wear sunglasses As well as making your vision more comfortable in the sun, sunglasses protect your eyes from UV light. When choosing sunglasses, you should always make sure that they carry the CE or British Standard marks. There are different categories of sunglasses to choose from, including everyday wear, as well as frames for specialist sports. Exposure to UV when young does most harm, so protect children with sunglasses, as well as a hat and sunblock. Stop smoking Many people are unaware of the link between smoking and eye disease. If you smoke, stop. Smoking significantly increases the risk of developing eye diseases, such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. However long you have smoked it’s never too late to benefit from quitting and reducing your risk. Avoid dry eyes Eyes become dry, tired and sore if you are not producing enough tears or you have poor-quality tears. Central heating, air-conditioning and computer use can make it worse. Many adults suffer with dry eyes due to a health condition or medication. Lubricating eye drops can soothe irritation and reduce discomfort. You may find taking omega-3 supplements helps over time. Drink plenty of water and remember to blink often. If your eyes are persistently dry, tell your optometrist. Research your family history Many eye conditions run in families, from simple long and short sight to more serious diseases, such as glaucoma. Knowledge of problems with sight can help detect a condition before it becomes serious. Your optometrist is the first person you should visit if you have any eye concerns. They can assess the problem and, if necessary, refer you to the right place for treatment.

Who’s who in your optical practice

Optical practices — known as opticians or optometrists — differ in size, as well as in the number and type of staff they have. The practice you visit may be a small independent business with one premises or a store that is part of a national group with a larger team. In every practice that offers sight tests, an optometrist will be present. Every sight test is tailor-made depending on your needs and the methods your optometrist prefers to use.

Your optometrist Your optometrist is a highly skilled professional who will thoroughly examine your eyes. During a sight test, your optometrist will test your vision as well as the health of your eyes, prescribing glasses and contact lenses where necessary. Their qualifications Optometrists have extensive training for at least four years and must be registered with the General Optical Council (GOC), the governing body. Some optometrists take higher qualifications to allow them to treat common eye conditions or prescribe medicine for conditions affecting the eye and surrounding tissues. Many optometrists fit contact lenses, dispense glasses and provide specialist services, such as home visits, and provide safety glasses and sports vision eyewear. Your dispensing optician If you need glasses, and the practice has a dispensing optician, they are trained to provide you with the most suitable lenses, coatings and frames for your requirements. They will measure the distance between your pupils to make sure your glasses work as well as possible for you and also give you advice on the best use and care of your glasses. Their qualifications Dispensing opticians complete academic and practical training over at least three years and must be registered with the GOC. Many dispensing opticians take on further training to fit contact lenses and provide lowvision aids to people who are partially sighted. The support team Members of the support team, including receptionist staff, optical assistants and clinical assistants , work under the direction of the practice manager and are often your first point of contact when you visit the practice . Support staff make sure that any necessary paperwork is completed before you see the optometrist. The support team is highly trained and can advise on suitable glasses and lenses, as well as instruct you on how to use your contact lenses safely. They may also have been trained to carry out some clinical tests but the results will be looked at by the optometrist. Other eye-care professionals After a sight test your optometrist may ask the advice of another healthcare professional.

• You may be referred to another optometrist for further investigation into certain symptoms – this could save you a visit to your hospital eye department. 

Sometimes you may be referred to your GP for health tests, such as a check on your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, or to screen for diabetes.

• If you need treatment for common eye conditions, such as cataracts, you may be referred to a specialist in eye disease called an ophthalmologist.

• For problems relating to the eye muscles or visual development, you may be referred to an orthoptist