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Will the NHS contribute toward the cost of my glasses or contact lenses?

You may get help with the cost of glasses or contact lenses if you:
  • are aged under 16, or aged under 19 and in full-time education or
  • are eligible for an NHS complex lens voucher (your optician will advise on your entitlement)
  • You receive Income Support or Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (not contribution-based).
  • You receive Pension Credit Guarantee Credit.
  • You receive Income-based Employment and Support Allowance.
  • You are entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate.
  • You are named on a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2).
People named on an NHS certificate for partial help with health costs (HC3) may also get help. You will be asked to show proof of your entitlement to NHS optical vouchers.

Do I qualify for an NHS funded sight test?

You qualify for a free NHS funded sight test if you are:
  • aged under 16, or aged under 19 and in full-time education
  • aged 60 or over
  • registered blind or partially sighted
  • diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma
  • aged 40 or over and you are the parent, brother, sister, son or daughter of a person diagnosed with glaucoma, or you have been advised by an ophthalmologist that you are at risk of glaucoma
  • eligible for an NHS complex lens voucher
  • you receive Income Support or Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (not contribution based)
  • you receive Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • you receive Income-based Employment and Support Allowance
  • you are entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate
  • you are named on a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2)
People named on an NHS certificate for partial help with health costs (HC3) may also get help.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma occurs when the drainage mechanism within the eye become slightly blocked, this prevents eye fluid from draining properly. When the fluid cannot drain properly, pressure builds up, this is called intraocular pressure. This can damage the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, and the nerve fibers from the retina. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause blindness. But if it is diagnosed and treated early enough, further damage to vision can often be prevented. Most cases of glaucoma are painless and slow to develop although there is a type known as acute closed angle glaucoma that can develop very rapidly and be quite painful and requires immediate medical assessment and treatment. Glaucoma can be treated with eye drops, laser treatment or surgery. However, early diagnosis is important because any damage to the eyes cannot be reversed. Treatment aims to control the condition and minimise any future damage. Attending regular optician appointments will help to ensure that any signs of glaucoma can be detected early and allow treatment to begin. Without treatment, glaucoma can eventually cause blindness.

What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration is a painless eye condition that leads to the gradual loss of central vision (the ability to see what is directly in front of you). Macular degeneration occurs when the macula (the part of the eye that is responsible for central vision) is unable to function as effectively as it used to. Macular degeneration does not affect the peripheral vision, which means that the condition will not cause complete blindness. Macular degeneration is usually age related, it is very uncommon in younger people and if it is present at a young age it is usually genetic. There are two types of Macular Degeneration known as wet, which can develop very quickly and Dry, which affects you vision more gradually. There is currently no treatment available for Dry Macular Degeneration beyond dietary supplements, but there are several treatment options for Wet, but treatment must be prompt to have any chance of success.

What are cataracts?

The lens inside your eye is normally clear and allows light to pass through to the back of the eye, however, if parts of the lens become cloudy (opaque), light is unable to pass through the cloudy patches, this is cataract. Over time, the cloudy patches usually become bigger, and more of them develop. As less light is able to pass through the lens, your vision is likely to become blurry or cloudy. The cloudier the lens becomes, the more your sight will be affected. Cataracts most commonly affect older people and are known as age-related cataracts. In the UK, it is estimated that more than half of people who are over 65 years of age have some cataract development in one or both eyes. If cataracts are mild, different powered glasses and brighter reading lights may enable you to function relatively normally. Once cataracts start interfering with daily activities such as cooking or getting dressed, surgery is usually recommended. Cataract operations are generally very successful with few complications.

What is a Squint?

A squint is a condition where your eyes look in different directions. One eye turns inwards, outwards, upwards or downwards while the other eye looks forwards. The medical name for a squint is strabismus. The misalignment of the eyes can be caused by a problem with the eye muscles or by an uncorrected vision problem, such as short sight or more commonly long sight. It is very important that a squint is picked up and treated as early as possible to avoid vision problems developing. If a squint is identified when a child is young, there is a good chance that it will be successfully treated. Treatments of squints vary with severity from glasses, patching, eye exercises and in more severe cases surgery.

As I get older, why can’t I focus to read properly?

Problems with reading, correctly termed, Presbyopia is a condition in which the lens of the eye loses its ability to focus on near objects. The lens of the eye needs to change its length or shape to focus on smaller objects, or objects that get closer or farther away. The elasticity of the lens in your eye is slowly lost as people age. The result is a slow decrease in the ability of the eye to focus on nearby objects. The symptoms of Presyopia are normally noticed at around the age of 45, when you need to hold reading materials further away in order to focus on them. Presbyopia is a natural part of the aging process and it affects everyone. Presbyopia is normally corrected with reading glasses or with varifocals if you have a distance correction as well, it can in some circumstances also be corrected with contact lenses.

What is a lazy eye?

Lazy eye, correctly termed amblyopia, is an early childhood condition where the child’s vision does not develop properly. It usually occurs in one eye, but it can occur in both eyes. Lazy eye affects approximately 2% of children. A baby is able to see as soon as it is born, and vision continues to develop up until around seven or eight years of age, at which point the visual pathway is established. After this, no further development occurs until sight deteriorates with age, or after eye injury or disease. This is why it is so important to have your child’s eyes examined regularly from a young age.

What is astigmatism?

Astigmatism is a sight problem that can affect your ability to see objects at all distances. Mild astigmatism is very common and often does not need to be corrected. It occurs generally when the cornea or clear window into your eye is not a perfectly curved shape. Most people who wear glasses will have some degree of astigmatism. Some case of astigmatism can run in families and it can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses.

What is Short Sight?

Short-sightedness or myopia is a sight problem that affects your ability to see objects in the distance.  People who are short sighted often see near objects clearly, but distant objects appear blurred.  Myopia is a problem with the eyes ability to focus light through your eye, if you are short sighted the image is formed before reaching the retina.  Generally short sightedness occurs when the eye grows too much and becomes too long from the front to the back, some cases can run in families.  Short sight can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses.

What is Long Sight?

Long-sightedness, or hyperopia, is a sight problem that affects your ability to see near objects. People who are long-sighted often see distant objects clearly, but nearby objects appear blurred.  Long sight occurs when light is not able to focus before or on the retina.  Long sight generally occurs when the eye does not grow enough and is too short from the front to the back.  Some children are born with long sightedness, although this can correct itself as their eyes and visual pathways develop, some cases may run in families.  Long sight can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses.