Eye tests are a hassle - as is the news that you may need to wear glasses for the rest of your life - but they are an important part of maintaining your every-day health, and there's no reason for you to be put off by budget or time constraints.
Many people make the mistake of believing they only need an eye test if they are struggling to see into the distance, or are experiencing blurred and/or strained vision.
This is important, of course - in fact, if you're planning on driving, you may be legally required to wear glasses on the road - but there are other factors to consider too.
Regular eye tests are a central part of your health routine (alongside check-ups with your local GP), and can be important in helping to diagnose outstanding health problems which would otherwise go undetected.
If you notice any change in your vision, that should certainly serve as a warning that something could be wrong - but so too is it important to take account of any hereditary conditions known to be in your family.
For obvious reasons, eye tests are most important for those approaching old age, as well as children - for whom, in most cases, it is better if they begin wearing glasses at a young age.
When to go for a test?
If you have any of the signs below, then you better go for an eye test:
- blurry vision
- double vision
- dark spots in your vision
- regular headaches
You should have an eye test at least every 2 years.
The NHS does cover eye tests but unfortunately - despite calls for them to be rolled out across the board - they are only available to those who meet the qualifying criteria.
The good news is it covers more people than you think - and those most in need of eye tests (i.e. the elderley and young children) always get them free.
If you are under 15, you are entitled to a free eye test - and the same applies if you are aged between 16 and 18 provided you are still in full-time education.
Over 60s are also covered in full, regardless of your income or pension status.
If you are registered as partially sighted or blind you will be entitled to a free eye test, and less serious eye-related conditions such as glaucoma are covered (as well as indirectly related ones like diabetes).
You may also be able to get a free eye test if you are in receipt of certain benefits - for example income support or jobseeker's allowance.
If you live in Scotland then excellent news - you get your test completely free, regardless of income or age.
If you don't meet the qualifying criteria, fear not - eye tests aren't especially expensive these days, and many opticians offer deals whereby you get your test free of charge provided that you also purchase a new pair of glasses.
The price of a test on its own varies from each high street shop to the next, but in general it should be in the region of £25, sometimes rising to as much as £30 or £40.
Tesco Opticians give free eye tests at participating stores, with the next cheapest being Asda at £15.
Boots, Optical Express, Specsavers and Vision Express - the more specialist outlets - all come in at the £25 to £30 range.
Remember that you are under no obligation to buy your glasses from the store at which you receive your test - and, by law, they must give you a prescription so you can use it at whichever outlet you prefer.
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