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Eye health

Having problems with your vision doesn't just make day-to-day life more difficult – it can also put you at risk of falls, driving accidents, and incorrect use of medications. The best way to make sure your eyes are healthy is to have regular eye checks. Many eye diseases can be treated successfully if they're detected early.


What are some common eye diseases that can affect me?

Certain eye diseases are more common as we age. These include:

During an eye test, your optician doesn’t just check to see whether you need glasses – they also check the health of your eyes. They can detect eye diseases at an early stage, often before you’ve noticed any changes yourself. And some eye diseases don’t always cause obvious symptoms. This is why it's important to have regular eye tests. 


How often should I get my eyes tested?

You should have an eye test every 2 years or as often as your optician recommends. If you notice any changes in your vision, get your eyes checked as soon as possible.

An eye test checks your vision straight ahead, as well as your side vision (called 'peripheral' vision).


Where can I get my eyes tested?

Lots of opticians provide free NHS eye tests if you're eligible.

If you're unable to leave the house, you may also be able to get a free mobile eye test, where the optician comes to your home.

The NHS has a postcode checker where you can find an NHS sight test local to you.


Am I entitled to free eye tests?

There are a few reasons you may be entitled to free eye tests:

  • If you're aged 60 and over, you can receive a free eye test every 2 years, but you may be advised to test more frequently.
  • If you're aged 40 or over and you have a close family member who's been diagnosed with glaucoma or you’ve been advised by an ophthalmologist that you're at risk of glaucoma, you'll get a free annual eye test.
  • If you've been diagnosed with diabetes, you'll also get a free annual eye test at any age. You should also be offered an additional annual eye test to check for signs of diabetic retinopathy.
  • You're also entitled to free eye tests if you or your partner receive certain benefits, such as Income Support.

What type of glasses are best for me?

If your optician recommends you need glasses, they must give you a prescription for glasses. This shows the type and strength of lenses you need. You can use this prescription to buy glasses from any supplier, which means you can shop around for the best value.

Your optician can talk to you about the different types of lenses available and which are most suitable for your eyes. There are different types of lenses and extra features – bifocals, trifocals, varifocals, tinting – to suit different types of vision problems and lifestyles.

Wherever you buy your glasses, make sure you have the right lenses. Wearing the wrong glasses can make you more likely to get eye strain, misjudge distances, or trip over obstacles like kerbs.


Am I entitled to free glasses?

If you or your partner on the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit, you're automatically entitled to a voucher towards the cost of glasses or contact lenses.

If you or your partner receive Universal Credit and meet certain other criteria, you may also be eligible for help with health costs.

If you and your partner have a low income and savings, you may be able to get help towards the cost of glasses or contact lenses through the NHS Low Income Scheme.

Our Help with health costs factsheet has more information about the NHS Low Income Scheme.

Download the Help with health costs factsheet (PDF 409 KB)

Are you entitled to extra money?

Do you know what benefits you are entitled to? Our Benefits Calculator can help you, quickly and easily, to find out what you could be claiming.


How can I keep my eyes healthy?

There are lots of simple things you can do to keep your eyes healthy:

  • Get regular eye tests.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun.
  • Let your optometrist know if you have a family history of certain eye conditions, as it may put you at higher risk.
  • Try to eat healthily and, where possible, get lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet – they have specific nutrients that are important for your eye health. Healthy eating can also help to prevent you from developing conditions like diabetes, which can negatively affect your eyes. 
  • Stop smoking. Research has shown that smoking increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts. Cigarette smoke also irritates the eyes and will worsen dry eyes.
  • Protect your eyes if you're doing activities that may damage your eyes, such as DIY or playing sports. 

What aids can help me at home if I have a visual impairment?

There are a number of optical aids and gadgets that can assist your vision and help you stay as independent as possible for as long as possible. You’re most likely to need different aids for different activities, such as reading a book or watching television.

The simplest optical aids are special magnifiers, which can help with tasks such as reading a newspaper. You can get hand-held magnifiers, or magnifiers with their own stand or ones that may be built into your glasses.

Other aids include:

  • computer screen magnifiers
  • big button telephones
  • large-print books and newspapers
  • talking books
  • large-print board games and card games
  • screen readers
  • talking watches.

For advice on optical aids, ask your doctor or eye specialist to refer you to a low-vision clinic, where specialist staff can assess which aids would help you most and suggest ways to make the best possible use of the sight you have.

They can usually loan any equipment to you to try out. If you register as blind or partially sighted, your local authority should contact you for an assessment.

The British Wireless for the Blind Fund can supply free radios and audio equipment to people who are registered as blind or partially sighnted and receive a means-tested benefit.

RNIB has a range of newspapers and magazines in a variety of different accessible reading formats in their online 'Newsagent'.


How can lighting help me if I have low vision?

There are lots of simple things you can do to make the most of your lighting around the home:

  • Keep your windows clean and pull the curtains as far back as possible.
  • Consider switching away from curtains to blinds, which make it easier to control the light that comes into your home.
  • Make sure you have good lighting at the top and bottom of stairs, as these areas are particularly hazardous.
  • Use a flexible table lamp for reading or close work.
  • Where possible, opt for fluorescent lamps – they're efficient because they produce a lot of light, but very little heat.

The Thomas Pocklington Trust charity have put together a guide to lighting your home with visiual impairments. 


How do I register as blind or partially sighted?

To be registered as blind or partially sighted, your optician or GP will need to refer you to an eye specialist who will perform some tests to see if you’re eligible. 

If the eye specialist does certify you as blind or partially sighted then you’ll receive a Certificate of Visual Impairment. You can then choose to register with your local council for local services and a reduction in your council tax bill.

Being registered as blind doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t see at all – most people who are registered blind do still have some useful vision.

If you’re registered as blind or partially sighted, you may receive:

If you’re registered as blind then you can get 50% reduction in the price of your TV licence.

Also, if you're registered as blind or partially sighted, this will strengthen any claims for disability benefits, such as Attendance Allowance.

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Last updated: Aug 04 2023

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