Frequently Asked Questions

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Childrens' Eyecare

What age can children's eye be tested?

Children don't have to be able to read letters before their eyes are examined. Under normal circumstances about 3.5 years of age would be reasonable for a first eye examination and certainly before they start school. If there is a family history of a lazy (amblyopic) eye, a squint, or needing very strong spectacles as a young child, it is vital that you take your child for an eye examination. There is no charge for children under 16 to have their eyes examined under the NHS.

What causes a Squint?

Several factors may cause a squint. It may be caused because a child is long sighted and needs to focus to see clearly. This makes the eyes turn in which spectacles would prevent. Alternatively, a squint may be caused by a defect in one of the six muscles that are attached to the eye that move the eye about. Squints often run in families so if you have a family history of a squint it is important to have your child's eyes examined.

What is a lazy eye?

A lazy (amblyopic) eye is one that is normal but doesn't give clear vision. Vision develops from birth until about 8.5 years of age. If the eye is out of focus or not correctly aligned, because of a squint, sight will not develop correctly so that the eye never sees sharply. An early eye examination prevents this happening.

Colour Vision

Can defective colour vision be corrected?

Most people with poor colour vision were born with the condition (it's congenital). It is hereditary and mainly affects males. There is no cure for congenital colour defects, but it can affect education if parents or teachers are unaware that a child has a problem. It can also affect career choices.

Contact Lenses

Who should I consult about contact lenses?

Some optometrists, such as Dr. Buckingham, hold an advanced Diploma in Contact Lens Practice (DCLP) which indicates a particular skill in fitting contact lenses. Problems with contact lens wear may arise from the lenses or the eye itself, which optometrists are particularly skilled to detect.

Are all contact lenses the same?

No. There are hundreds of different types of contact lenses and thousands of different fittings. Each lens type needs to be fitted to meet your individual requirements. Contact lenses are not interchangeable and you should never change your lens type or the way you wear your lenses without the recommendation of your practitioner.

Can I try contact lenses before I decide to wear them?

Practitioners usually offer a trial so you can take the lenses away with you to see how you get on with them. You'll need to learn how to look after your lenses, be able to put them on the eye and remove them before you take them away to try. Once you've worn the lenses you'll need to have the health of your eyes checked and the fitting completed.

Can I use any solution with my contact lenses?

To get the best out of your lenses it's important to use the solutions recommended to you by your contact lens practitioner for your particular lens type and to follow the instructions carefully. Your practitioner may record the solutions recommended on your contact lens specification.

Can I wear my contact lenses overnight?

Only lenses approved for overnight use ("extended" or "continuous" wear lenses) can be worn during sleep and then only on the advice of your contact lens practitioner as not everyone's eyes are suitable. Sleeping in contact lenses increases the risk of eye infection irrespective of lens type. Avoid sleeping in extended wear lenses if you are unwell.

How can I check my eyes for problems with my contact lenses?

Ask yourself these three questions each time you wear your lenses: do my eyes feel good with my lenses; do my eyes look good, no redness; and do I see well, with no unusual blurring with either eye. If the answer to any of these questions is no, leave your lenses off and consult your contact lens practitioner immediately who will advise you what to do next.

I normally wear multifocal glasses. Can I wear contact lenses?

Yes. Bifocal and multifocal contact lenses are available in soft and rigid gas-permeable materials. Ask your contact practitioner about trying these lenses and the advantages of each lens type

My optician told me that I have astigmatism. Can I wear contact lenses?

Yes. Almost all prescriptions can now be corrected with contact lenses, including astigmatism. Soft lenses, rigid gas permeable lenses and bifocal or multifocal lens designs are all available to correct astigmatism. These lenses are also known as 'toric' lenses.

Eye Care

Are floaters a sign of eye problems?

Most people, particularly the short sighted, report seeing floaters that appear as little black spots or 'flies' drifting across their sight. They move when moving the eyes and are particularly obvious looking at a plain pale background (like a cloudless sky). Normally they are of no significance but the sudden onset of a shower of floaters, particularly after having banged your head, or if you see flashing lights in your eyes or a 'curtain' or 'veil' in front of your eyes you should seek urgent opinion.

Can an optician tell if I have glaucoma?

An eye examination will include the tests for glaucoma. These include examining the back of your eye (ophthalmoscopy), which is done on everybody, measuring the pressure inside your eye (tonometry) and checking your visual fields. Tonometry and visual field tests are recommended as good practice if you are at risk of glaucoma. From the results of these tests, your optometrist will be able to tell whether or not you have glaucoma. Over 95% of glaucoma sufferers are unaware of it because it is painless and only affects your sight very gradually. It is, therefore, very important to have your eyes examined regularly, particularly if you have a family history or are at a higher risk of glaucoma.

Can glaucoma be treated?

Glaucoma is usually treated using eye drops and/or an operation. The aim of current treatment is to reduce the pressure inside the eye.

What is a cataract?

This is when the lens inside the eye becomes cloudy. The treatment for this is surgery. A recent study looked at whether or not a particular dietary supplement reduced the incidence of cataract. It was found that it did not.

Can macular degeneration be prevented?

A recent study (the Age Related Eye Disease study - ARED study) showed that some dietary supplements may reduce the incidence of Age Related Macular degeneration.

What vision symptoms do diabetics get?

People who are diabetic may find that their sight becomes blurry, so that they need a change in their spectacle prescription, or they may see parts of their vision missing. They are also more prone to cataract. If you get any of these symptoms you should consult your optometrist. More information on diabetes can be found on

General FAQs

Can I purchase a corrective lens spectacle over the counter so as not to waste anyone's time?

Readymade reading spectacles to correct presbyopia (the condition which happens as we get older and need spectacles to read but not in the distance) only can be sold by anyone. These spectacles are limited in that they have a maximum prescription of +4 Dioptres and right and left lenses are identical. You should not avoid having your eyes examined regularly (at least every 2 years) as an eye examination not only checks your sight but also examines the health of your eyes. Many conditions, such as glaucoma, are more common as we get older and do not cause any symptoms until permanent visual loss has occurred.

What is the difference between an optician and an optometrist?

The term 'optician' covers all types of opticians: ophthalmic, dispensing and manufacturing. An ophthalmic optician is now known as an optometrist and is qualified to examine eyes, recognize disease, prescribe and fit spectacles and contact lenses (providing they are on the appropriate opticians register). A dispensing optician is qualified to fit spectacles and may have done additional qualifications to enable them to fit contact lenses too (in which case they call themselves 'Contact lens opticians'). A manufacturing optician makes the spectacles.

Where should I buy my glasses from?

The College of Optometrists advice is that prescribing and dispensing of spectacles are very closely linked and it would be in your best interests to have your spectacles dispensed where you have your eyes examined. It is often more difficult to resolve any problems you may have with your spectacles when prescribing and supply are separated.