A Guide to: Eye TestsLike visiting the dentist or booking an appointment with the local GP, eye tests are something many of us are apt to put off because of the cost and hassle associated with a trip to the optician. But regular check-ups can be hugely important to your overall health, regardless of whether you are experiencing problems with your vision. As well as helping to identify if you need to wear glasses, eye tests can also help diagnose underlying conditions that may otherwise go undetected.
Why are they important?
There's a wealth of literature available online about the benefits of regular eye exams, but the crux of the matter is that our eyes don't necessarily send our brains the same signals when something has gone wrong. In other words, you could feel perfectly fine, despite suffering from a serious condition which could worsen over time. Eye tests are credited with helping many people - particularly those aged over 50 - get diagnosed with long-term medical conditions like diabetes, glaucoma and macular degeneration. These conditions can adversely affect your ability to lead a normal every day life, and through early diagnosis you can learn to cope more efficiently.
Aside from the above, parents are also advised to book regular check-ups for their children. In a lot of cases, kids are reluctant to tell adults they are having trouble seeing the front of the class because of a fear of being ostracised or bullied - which is why it's important that you take the initiative for them at the earliest opportunity.
It is recommended to have your eyes tested every 2 years regardless you had any eyesight problems before. People with medical problems might need to visit their optician even more frequently to check the vision.
Can I get a free test on the NHS?
The first port of call for anyone looking to get their eyes tested is to check and see if they are eligible for a free examination on the NHS. While the UK's state healthcare system doesn't currently offer universal coverage here, there are several qualifying factors that may entitle you to a helping hand:
• Children under the age of 16
• Children aged between 16 and 18 who attend college or university full-time
• Anyone over the age of 60
• Anyone registered as partially sighted or blind
• Glaucoma and diabetes sufferers
• Prisoners on leave
• Certain benefits claimants (income support and jobseeker's allowance are included
What other options do I have?
If you don't qualify for a free test on the NHS, the next best option is to head to head to Tesco's website and see if any stores near you have an optician on site. The supermarket giant currently offers free tests to anyone - regardless of their age or health - and there's no obligation to buy a pair of frames or book further appointments.
Failing that, high street opticians like Specsavers and Vision Express, while expensive, tend to offer the most comprehensive service on the UK market. The best way to pinch pennies here is to take advantage of introductory offers that pledge to waive the eye test fee if you agree to purchase your frames there as well (they tend to have the best glasses anyway, so you can't really go wrong).