While your regular sight test will be every year or two, it’s vital to know the tell-tale signs for needing a sight test.
For instance, it’s common for our eyes to ache due to a bad cold, sinus infection or lack of sleep.
However, if the pain is limited to the eyes and causes irritation then it’s time to visit your local optician.
An optician is better clinically equipped to provide an optics diagnosis and treatment than a GP is. If needed, the optician might advise you to follow up with your GP to get things investigated further.
Blepharitis (dry eye)
The most common cause of eye pain is dry eye syndrome or blepharitis, which is inflammation of the eyelid.
Watery eyes can ironically be a sign of dry eye, along with redness, stinging, blurry vision or a gritty sensation.
It’s easy to confuse these symptoms with tiredness, so a good test is to stare straight ahead at something for as long as possible. If there’s any discomfort or a need to blink before 10 seconds is up, it could be dry eye.
While dry eye can be a natural sign of growing old, it’s recently on the rise in younger people.
With all the time spent on computers and screens, because we blink less while we concentrate, the hydrating tears on the surface of the eye evaporate before we can replace them.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for dry eye, but there are several things an optician can do to manage and improve symptoms. For instance, prescribing preservative-free eye drops.
Another tell-tale sign of needing an eye test is bloodshot eyes.
Bloodshot eyes can be the result of a number of things from sleepless nights and allergies to dry eye.
Some of the most common causes of bloodshot are infections such as conjunctivitis, but if the redness is significant and causes discomfort you should make an appointment with your local optician.
Temporary and permanent visual disturbances can be another sign of needing a sight test.
A visual disturbance is something that interferes with sight, most commonly flashing lights, kaleidoscope vision, zig-zag patterns and blind spots.
Treatment can help relieve temporary visual disturbances.
As these visual disturbances can include partial or complete blindness for a brief period, they can be extremely distressing.
While these symptoms can be caused by a number of conditions, they’re most commonly associated with ocular and retinal migraines, otherwise known as visual migraines.
Typically, visual migraines cause problems in both eyes at the same time and can last up to half an hour. A visual migraine will usually subside by itself, but the best thing to do is rest until it’s better.
If you experience these symptoms, even if they disappear, it’s important to let your optician take a look at them.
The symptoms can appear with or without a headache, so it can be difficult to recognise what they are.
If you’re unsure whether it’s a migraine, you should seek advice from your optician.
Any pain, irritation and discomfort caused by dry eye, bloodshot eyes and visual disturbances can restrict daily life.
A sight test can help you to see better and live better sooner.
If you experience any issues with your eyes, visit your local optician as soon as possible.
If out of hours, contact NHS 24 by dialling 111 for advice. For any eye injuries that need emergency, visit your nearest Accident and Emergency department (A&E).