1. I have my diabetic eye test at the hospital every year. Do I still need an eye test with my optician?
The answer to this one is most definitely YES! In most cases, diabetics are sent for a ‘Diabetic Retinopathy Screening’ every 12mths. This involves having drops in your eyes to widen your pupils and then having a photograph taken of your retina. This photograph is then viewed by an Ophthalmologist to check for any signs of diabetic eye disease.
Your eye test with your local optician however is completely different than that at the hospital. They will discuss your general health and medication and ask about your lifestyle to ascertain your visual needs. They will then check the ‘front’ and ‘back’ of your eyes including testing the pressure in your eyes and your peripheral vision. They will end the examination with a discussion of the results and address any visual needs or issues – This may include new spectacles, prescription sunglasses or even a contact lens trial.
All this is a far cry from your Diabetic Retinopathy Screening, and it is essential to your eye health that you attend both these checks on a regular basis.
2. My optician said I have a cataract. What do I need to do about this?
Cataracts are a normal change with age and happen to us all sooner or later. In the early stages, a cataract may cause no visual symptoms at all and it can take many years to develop.
You may start to notice a haziness to your vision or even feel like your glasses are dirty or scratched. As cataracts grow, they tend to change your prescription, which can mean the need to update your spectacles more often.
When your cataract reaches the level suitable for referral (every NHS area will have its own criteria) your optician will discuss with you the referral process and options available for cataract surgery.
Cataract surgery is a very straightforward procedure for the ophthalmologists who perform it and can often result in no need for distance spectacles! It does however produce a change to any previous prescription spectacles, so it’s essential to visit your optician after the operation.
3. I’ve been told I have Dry Eye, but my eyes water all the time. Is this right?
Dry eye is a condition caused when your eyes don’t make enough tears to wet their surface, or when the tears produced are of poor quality.
Dry eye can be caused by a number of factors including, being in a dry, air-conditioned or windy environment; hormonal changes; general health and medication, and age – dry eye syndrome significantly increases over the age of 65.
Symptoms of dry eye can range from mild irritation to severe burning and itching. You may feel you have something in your eye, and they may start to water spontaneously.
Dry eye is a chronic or ‘long-term’ condition, however there are ways in which we can help you manage your symptoms.
Firstly, remember your eyes are affected by the environment in which you live. Central heating and air-conditioning (in the car and at work) can cause the eyes to become dry. Long periods in front of the television or a computer or iPad can have the same effect.
Try to stay away from smoky atmospheres and think about introducing Omega-3 (found in oily fish) into your diet.
Lubricating eye drops and gels can be recommended by your optician. You may also want to consider your eyelid hygiene and use a specifically developed ‘lid wipe’ to keep the area clean and free from bacteria.
Finally, there are a number of ‘eyebags’ or ‘eye masks’ available to help dissolve any build up of lipids in the tear glands and to soothe dry and sore eyes.
Your optician will be able to assess your dry eye and advise what treatments would be most suitable for you.
4. What are ‘Floaters’ and do I need to worry about them?
Floaters generally appear as grey/black spots or strands in your vision. They are caused when the ‘jelly-like’ substance inside your eye naturally begins to shrink away from the inner lining of the eye (the retina).
Floaters tend to be more noticeable when looking at a plain, light coloured background such as a clear blue sky or a plain, white wall. They can also be annoying when concentrating on detail such as reading.
Floaters are generally harmless and usually become less symptomatic as they reduce in size and our brains adapt and begin to ignore them.
Occasionally when the ‘jelly’ shrinks, it can cause a tear in the retina which is very serious and needs immediate attention.
Symptoms of a retinal tear or detachment include a ‘dark shadow’ or ‘curtain’ coming down from the top of your vision or in from the outside (towards your nose). You may also notice a sudden increase in floaters as well as flashes of light.
If you experience these symptoms you must seek immediate attention from you optician or local casualty department if necessary.
5. Can I wear contact lenses?
Contact lens technology is rapidly changing. Just because you’ve been told in the past that you can’t wear contact lenses doesn’t mean you aren’t suitable now.
There are now contact lenses to suit most prescriptions, whether you are very short sighted, have astigmatism (the shape of your eye), or even if you need different powers for distance and near vision.
Some people want disposable contact lenses for sport or holidays and others want a more permanent replacement to spectacles.
Your local optician can check your prescription and eye health and advise you on suitability. They will teach you how to insert and remove the contact lenses, how to look after them and how often to wear them.
They can then arrange for a trial of the contact lenses so you can take them home and see how they fit into your lifestyle.
Contact lenses can be a great alternative to full time spectacle wear and give you the confidence and freedom to enjoy your life.
6. My friend tried varifocals and can’t get on with them, so will they be right for me?
A Varifocal is a very specialised lens which incorporates different powers over different areas.
As our eyes age, if often becomes necessary to have different lens powers for different working distances – for example, the power you need to see the TV is different to the power you need to read close.
A varifocal is designed so that the power at the top of the lens allows you to look straight ahead and see in the distance. The power at the bottom of the lens makes near things clearer, so to see these you need to move your eyes down and/or lift your chin up.
You will find by moving your eyes up and down the lens that things at different distances become clear.
Using a varifocal is like no other spectacle lens and requires ‘brain training’ and a period of adaptation. However, if you persevere and work at it they can be much more convenient than swapping between different pairs of spectacles.
7. I think my child may need glasses, but they can’t read yet. Can they have an eye test?
All children aged 16 and under are entitled to a free eye examination under the NHS.
It is recommended that children are examined before they start school at the age of 4 or 5. The child’s eye test will be completely different to an adult one, especially if the child can’t read.
They will be assessed with matching cards, colours, pictures and lights. The optician will look for squints and ‘lazy eyes’, colour vision defects and check the health of the eye as well as the need for spectacles.
The optician will try to make the eye test as much fun as possible to put your child at ease and make them feel comfortable. If your child is found to need spectacles, they can choose from a range of frames which are free under the NHS or choose a designer frame using an NHS voucher towards the cost.
Call at your local opticians for advice on when to get your child’s eyes tested and what’s involved.
8. Do I need prescription reading glasses or can I just use cheap ‘off-the-shelf’ ready readers?
The type of ‘Ready Readers’ which you can buy without a prescription from supermarkets etc are not suitable for everyone.
‘Ready Readers’ are the same power in each eye and merely magnify the image. Most people’s two eyes are different, so in order to correct both eyes properly and hence give the best vision possible, there would need to be a different power in each lens.
Prescription reading spectacles focus the light going into each eye onto the retina and then enlarge and bring clarity at the patient’s required working distance.
It’s also worth remembering that prescription spectacles are subject to stringent British standards and regulations which Ready Readers are not.
For more information, ask your optician what type of lens would be most suitable for your prescription and your requirements.
9. Do I have to pay for an eye test or is it on the NHS?
The NHS will pay for your eye examination if you fall into certain categories regarding age, income and health.
If you are over 6o or under 16 you are entitled to a free examination at least every 2 years and possibly more often if your optician finds it clinically necessary.
If you are aged 16,17 or 18 and are still in full time education, you are also entitled to a free test every 2 years.
If you or your partner receive certain benefits you may be entitled to the free eye test plus a voucher towards the cost of any spectacles required.
The benefits are a s follows: Income Support, Income based Jobseekers Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit guarantee credit, Tax Credit and HC2 Certificates.
Health exemptions include, if you suffer from diabetes or glaucoma or if you are registered Partially Sighted or Blind. If you have a close family member with glaucoma you could also be entitled, or if you have been prescribed ‘complex’ lenses by your optician.
If you are unsure whether you fall into one of these categories, call your local optician who will be happy to advise you.