More about opticians and eye tests – Questions and Answers

More about opticians and eye tests – Questions and Answers

During a sight test your optometrist will:

  • check your eye health history, discuss any changes or issues you report and to check your lifestyle vision needs
  • test your vision and check the health of your eyes and surrounding tissues
  • explain to you about, and record, any changes to your vision and give you any eye health advice.

The optometrist will measure your vision by against a reading chart and will adjust lens powers either by a frame sitting on your face or electronic headset to determine any necessary vision correction to meet your lifestyle needs.  The optometrist will also look around and in your eyes.  Using a small painless light in a darkened room he or she will check the health of the back of your eye (where the light is captured and the image sent to your brain) for any early signs of eye disease.  The optometrist will also check for any lid or hygiene issues which maybe affecting your vision and advise you about how to address these.

Some people suffer from dry eye and other disorders, particularly as they get older and depending on any medicines they may be taking.  Again, the optometrist can help you with these issues.

At the end of the eye examination, if you need vision correction, the optometrist will write you a prescription or give you a statement that you do not need vision correction.

A prescription can be taken to any optician for dispensing.  The optometrist or dispensing optician will advise you on the best type of vision correction to meet your lifestyle needs and will make adjustments to ensure your vision is as good as it can be.

If I need spectacles, how much will they cost?

Spectacles and lenses come in wide range of options to meet all needs, tastes and pockets.  Generally, the more complicated your lenses, the more expensive they will be and not all types of lenses are suitable for all types of frames.

Some NHS patients qualify for help towards all or part the cost of spectacles.  Your optical practice, optometrist or optician will be able to advise you about this.

Are all spectacle lenses the same

No, they can vary with lower quality lenses preventing up to 8 percent of the light reaching your eyes.   Your optometrist or dispensing optician will be able to give you advice about different lens types and the best types of lenses for your particular eyes.

If you need a particularly strong prescription, you may choose to have especially thinned lenses for appearance purposes, so that they fit easily into modern frames and are light to wear.

What are varifocals?

These are lenses which combine both distance and reading correction.  They can also be known as progressive lenses and are extremely popular for their convenience as they save people changing spectacles between tasks.  Generally, they are very easy to get used to and many patients swear by them.  However, they are not suitable for everyone and your optometrist or optician will be pleased to advise depending on your prescription, lifestyle and other vision needs.

In most cases it is impossible for observers to tell whether you are wearing single vision lenses or varifocals.

Varifocals have largely replaced the older style bi-focal lenses on grounds of convenience and aesthetic appearance.

What about coatings?

All lenses can be provided with a variety of coatings to suit your visual and lifestyle needs.  These can include anti-reflective coatings which cut glare, lenses which reject dampness e.g. for visor wearers and anti-scratch coatings to extend the life and wear of your lenses.

In some cases, these will be provided as standard in others, depending on the price range, you may have to pay extra for them.  Your optometrist or your optician will be able to advise on the most suitable options for you in an appropriate price range.

Are there alternatives to spectacles?

Yes. Depending on your lifestyle needs your optometrist or dispensing opticians may also recommend contact lenses – which are now suitable for children as young as eight – or refractive surgery.

Who can wear contact lenses?

Contact lenses are extremely thin and can be worn by 99 per cent of optical patients.  They are very easy to wear and come, even for complex prescriptions, in easy daily disposable as well as longer use formats.

Sometimes contact lenses replace the need for spectacles, sometimes they are a helpful addition to spectacle wear for example for social purposes, in playing sports or in other situations where spectacles may not be practical or desirable.

Many spectacle wearers also wear contact lenses for their lifestyle needs.  Some contact lenses can be worn for extended periods, for example overnight.  Some come tinted to adjust eye colour.

What is refractive surgery?

Refractive surgery is where, via a small operation by an ophthalmologist (doctor who specialises in eye surgery) the lenses of your eye are either re-shaped by laser or removed or replaced by artificial lenses to correct your vision.  Your optometrist or optician will be able to advise whether you might be suitable for refractive surgery and discuss options with you.  As refractive surgery is not essential for vison correction, in the same way as spectacles or contact lenses, it is not normally provided on the NHS.

Should I insure my spectacles and lenses?

This is a matter of personal choice.  In many ways, this will depend on your normal routine or the care you give your spectacles and your general approach to ensuring life and household risk.   If you have NHS help towards the cost of spectacles, you may be entitled to free replacements.  This is usually the case for children who break their spectacles or voucher-eligible adults who break their spectacles as a result of illness.

What should I do if I have an issue with my eyes e.g. a red, sticky or gritty eye?

Many optical practices offer a GP-type service for eyes issues.  Contact your usual optical practice and if they do not provide that service they can refer you to a practice that does or your GP practice will be able to advise you.

Never ignore an issue with your eyes.  Telephone an optician or your GP.  They will advise you about whether they can treat you, arrange an urgent visit to hospital for you or advise you to go to A&E.