Why are regular eye tests (sight tests) so important?
It's easy to neglect your eyes because they rarely hurt when there's a problem.
Having an eye test won't just tell you if you need new glasses or a change of prescription – it's also an important eye health check.
It can spot many general health problems and early signs of eye conditions before you're aware of any symptoms, many of which can be treated if found early enough.
How often should I have an eye test?
Optometrists recommend that most people have an eye test about every two years. People over 40 and people from black or minority ethnic groups may need sight tests more often.
What should I do if I notice a change in my sight?
Visit your optician or GP if you're concerned about any aspect of your vision at any time.
Are some people more at risk from eye disease than others?
Anyone can develop sight problems, but some people have a higher risk of eye disease.
It's especially important to have regular eye tests if you are:
- above 60 years old
- from certain ethnic groups – for example, people from African-Caribbean communities are at greater risk of developing glaucoma and diabetes, and people from south Asian communities are at a greater risk of developing diabetes; diabetic retinopathy, where the retina becomes damaged, is a common complication of diabetes
- someone with a learning disability
- from a family with a history of eye disease
What about my child's sight?
Children do not usually complain about their sight, but may show signs of not being able to see properly.
Things to look out for include sitting close to the TV, holding objects very close to their face, blinking a lot, eye rubbing, or one eye turning in or out.
If your child is having any sort of sight problems, take them to an optometrist for further investigation.
Children don't have to be able to read letters to have their eyes examined. Like adults, children should have regular eye checks around every two years.
What else can I do to look after my eyes?
Give up smoking
Smokers are much more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration and cataracts compared with non-smokers. Find out about the help and support available to stop smoking.
While it might seem odd that exercise can help the eyes, it can be important. Research shows that exercise may reduce the risk of sight loss, which can occur as a result of high blood pressure, diabetes, and narrowing or hardening of the arteries. See some ideas for getting fit your way.
A healthy, balanced diet that includes a wide variety of fruit and vegetables will benefit your overall health, and may help keep the retina healthy. Get tips on healthy eating.
Drink within the recommended limits
Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of early age-related macular degeneration.
To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level:
- men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis
- spread your drinking over three or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week
- if you want to cut down, try to have several drink-free days each week
Keep tabs on your drinking with the Drinkaware alcohol tracker.
Protect your eyes from the sun
Never look at the sun directly, even when something exciting is happening, such as an eclipse. Doing so can cause irreversible damage to your eyesight and even lead to blindness. Several studies also suggest sunlight exposure is a risk factor for cataracts.
Wearing a wide-brimmed hat or sunglasses can help protect your eyes from UV rays. The College of Optometrists recommends buying good-quality dark sunglasses – these needn't be expensive.
Look for glasses carrying the CE mark or the British Standard BS EN ISO 12312: 2013, which ensures they offer a safe level of ultraviolet protection.