As we grow older, our sight tends to change and almost everyone over the age of 65 needs to wear glasses, whether for reading or to help with general vision.
Regular eye tests and suitable glasses will increase the chances of your sight remaining good. Unfortunately, some people’s sight will continue to get worse so that they have difficulty seeing even with glasses.
But if you get the right help and advice, worsening sight shouldn’t stop you from leading a full and independent life.
An eye test is not just a test to see whether you need glasses; it is a vital check on the health of your eyes.
Eye diseases can often be detected at an early stage, usually before you have even noticed anything is wrong.
This is very important as early treatment may stop the eye disease getting any worse and prevent the damage it would cause to your vision.
You should have an eye test at least every two years, and more often if you notice any change in your vision.
The test also looks for age-related changes as well as eye conditions such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma, which can lead to sight loss. These conditions can be detected at an early stage, usually before you’ve even noticed that anything is wrong. This is very important as early treatment may stop an eye disease getting worse and prevent the damage it would cause to your vision.
It’s recommended that you have an eye test every two years if you’re between the ages of 18 and 69. If you’re aged 70 or over, you’re advised to have an eye test every year. You should have a regular check, regardless of whether you live at home or in a care home, even if you think your sight is fine. If you notice any changes in your vision, it’s vital to have your eyes checked as soon as possible.
You can have a free NHS eye test every two years if you’re 60 or over, and every year if you’re 70 or over (except in Scotland, where everyone is entitled to a free test, regardless of age). If you need an NHS eye test at home because you have an illness or disability that means you can’t leave home on your own, you shouldn’t have to pay any extra costs for it.
Some people under 60 are also entitled to a free eye test.
You Will Qualify for a Free Eye Test if you:
• Receive the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or, in some cases, Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit (your partner and children will also be entitled to free tests)
• Need complex or powerful lenses
• Are registered blind or partially sighted
• Have diabetes or glaucoma
• Are aged 40 or over and have a close family member with glaucoma
• Are a war pensioner, and need an eye test because of a disability for which you get a war pension
• Have an HC2 or HC3 certificate through the NHS Low Income Scheme.
If you have diabetes, you should also have a special eye check every year to look for signs of an eye condition called diabetic retinopathy. Your GP or hospital clinic should arrange this for you. If you care for someone who is unable to recognise or communicate sight problems, for example, someone with dementia, remember to arrange for regular eye tests (ask the optician about using special non-verbal tests) and encourage them to wear glasses if they need them.
Tips to Keep Your Eyes Healthy
There are several simple things you can do to keep your eyes as healthy as possible:
• Have regular eye tests and wear the right glasses. Take advantage of free eye tests if you’re eligible for them.
• Protect your eyes from the sun. Strong sunlight can damage your eyes and may increase your risk of cataracts. Wear a wide-brimmed hat or a pair of sunglasses with a CE mark or UV400 label to protect your eyes from UV rays.
• Stay a healthy weight. Being overweight increases your risk of diabetes, which can lead to serious sight conditions.
• Stop smoking. Smoking can increase your chances of developing conditions such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
• Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables. This is good for your overall health and may help keep your eyes as healthy as possible.
• Use good lighting. This makes tasks less tiring for your eyes. Increase the amount of natural daylight in your home, and make sure you have enough electric lighting.
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