Female optician giving advise on glasses

Ask An Expert Optician

Our experts are here to help

Our staff are highly trained in the latest advances in Optometry and vision care. If you’re looking for advice or support regarding your eye health, you’ve come to the right place!

Here you’ll find the answers to the most common questions we’re asked every day. Have a question of your own? Feel free to ask it and one of our expert opticians will get back to you shortly.

Choosing an Optician

How do I choose the best optician?

Not all opticians are the same so it’s worth doing some research before making your first appointment. To ensure you receive the best care you should look for a practice that offers optometrists with the best qualifications, an established reputation and a friendly approach. An independent is more likely to provide the continuity of care you need because they tend to have a much lower turnover of staff. As an independent, the Eyesite group works in partnership with all the top brands to offer a very wide range of frames, lenses, contact lenses, sunglasses and specialist sports eyewear.

Do all opticians use the same technology?

No, not all opticians are able to invest in the most advanced technology. New developments are constantly being made that allow for more detailed examinations and the earlier detection of serious but treatable sight-threatening conditions such as glaucoma and macular degeneration. At every Eyesite branch we have the very latest technology that we offer as part of our Advanced Gold eye examination. The state-of-the-art Ocular Coherence Tomography (OCT) and Daytona Optomap machines deliver a much more in-depth picture of the health of your eyes to allow us to begin intervention that much sooner to protect your sight.

What’s the difference between an optometrist and an optician?

The term optician is a generic term often used for either a dispensing optician or an optometrist. An optometrist is a healthcare professional who is trained to perform eye examinations and vision tests, prescribe and dispense spectacles and contact lenses, detect certain eye conditions such as glaucoma, and prescribe medication for certain eye diseases.

A dispensing optician is trained to select and fit frames and spectacle lenses using prescriptions written by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. The Eyesite team are made up of highly qualified and experienced optometrists and dispensing opticians who have the combined expertise to provide a comprehensive eye care service.


Eye Tests

Why do I need a more advanced eye exam than a standard eye test?

A standard sight test will check your vision and provide you with your prescription as well as detecting any immediate sign of common eye disease, such as glaucoma or cataracts. What it won’t do is reveal the very first signs of these conditions which, when treated at the earliest opportunity, can be slowed, halted or eradicated altogether. Nor will it include the Optomap or OCT scans which we offer as a way of helping to detect and manage eye problems to maximise eye health.

At Eyesite, we recommend our Advanced Gold Eye Examination because it includes both the Optomap and OCT scans.

 If I want to buy glasses do I need another eye test?

As long as your prescription is valid and within the expiry date then you don’t need another eye test. If you want to try contact lenses you will need to have had an eye test within the last year and will need to book a contact lens consultation.

Why do I need an eye test every two years if my eyes have always been fine?

Any change in your eye is usually very gradual, so you become accustomed to the change in your vision. Your eyes won’t just tell you something’s wrong. Regular eye tests are important to pick up any change as soon as possible to make sure any problem can be treated before it affects your vision more seriously.

Eye tests detect many conditions earlier than symptoms can begin to appear. Your eye test doesn’t just check whether you need glasses, but it can show a number of underlying health problems, including diabetes and glaucoma, and the general condition of your eyes.

How old does my child have to be to have their first eye test?

Children can be tested at any age. It is recommended that an optometrist sees them before they start school and start learning to read. Often, vision problems can be the reason why a child does not perform well at school. The earlier a problem is detected the more chance there is of successful treatment.

How can I tell if my child needs glasses?

Common signs that a child has a vision problem that requires corrective eyewear include:

  • Consistently sitting too close to the TV or holding a book too close
  • Losing his or her place while reading
  • Using a finger to follow along while reading
  • Squinting
  • Frequent eye rubbing

What do all those number on my prescription mean?

An eyeglass spectacle prescription is written in a standardised format so it can be interpreted worldwide. Let’s look at one and see what all the numbers mean:
Let’s say the prescription for your right eye is: -2.00 / -1.00 x 180.

The first number (-2.00) indicates the spherical lens power to correct short-sightedness or long-sightedness. In all cases, the unit of power for numbers in an eyeglass spectacle prescription is called a diopterre(D). If the number is preceded by a minus sign (as it is here), this means a lens power is required to correct short-sightedness. If the number haves a plus sign (+), the lens power would be one to correct long-sightedness. So this prescription is calling for the correction of 2.00D of short-sightedness.

The second number (-1.00) is the supplemental lens power (called “cylinder” power) being prescribed for the correction of astigmatism. Cylinder power is also preceded by a minus sign or a plus sign, depending on the prescribing style your optician chooses. If you have no need for astigmatism correction, your doctor might simply draw a horizontal line through this box on your prescription or write “SPH” or “DS” to indicate that only spherical power to correct short-sightedness or long-sightedness is needed.

The third number ( x180) indicates the location of what’s called the “axis” of the astigmatism correction. Unlike spherical lens powers that correct short or long-sightedness, cylinder powers to correct astigmatism have a different amount of power in different meridians of the lens. The axis of astigmatism is the meridian of the cylinder that has zero power, and it always will be a number between 1 and 180 on your prescription, preceded by an “x”. If you have no astigmatism, this part of your eyeglass spectacle prescription will be left blank.

If you have presbyopia are presbyopic and need bifocals or varifocal lenses, your prescription will contain a number in a box marked “ADD”. This is the additional magnifying power placed in the lower half of your lenses to improve your reading vision. It might be preceded by a “+” sign, and it typically will be a number between 0.75 and 3.00.

Finally, you may see the notations “OD” and “OS” on your prescription. These are abbreviations for Latin terms that mean “right eye” (OD) and “left eye” (OS). Sometimes, you might see a third abbreviation: “OU”. This means “both eyes”.

How often should I have my eyes tested?

You should have your eyes examined every two years, or more frequently if recommended by your optometrist, regardless of whether you wear glasses or contact lenses. Your eye examination is an important health check that can reveal many underlying health problems, as well as any changes in your vision. Detecting the signs of common eye diseases such as glaucoma at the earliest opportunity means the progression of these debilitating conditions can be slowed or even halted. The technology we have at our disposal allows us to keep accurate images of your eyes, so by visiting regularly we can compare and detect even the smallest changes in your eye health.

How much does an eye examination cost?

The cost of an eye examination does vary from optician to optician. This can depend on the amount of time your optician spends with you as well as the investment in the more advanced techniques such as Optomap and OCT.

At Eyesite we offer you a choice: our most thorough Advanced GOLD Eye Exam at £98 is a full 50-60 minute appointment where we carry out both OCT and Optomap scans on your retina and save the images securely for future comparison.

Without these two scans we can carry out our 30 minute eye examination, in which we use a Retinal Camera to take an image of the most central part of your retina. This examination costs £38.

If you are entitled to NHS assistance, we allow you to use your NHS allowance towards either examination or you can simply have your free NHS Sight Test, which takes about 20 minutes.

When should my child have their first eye test?

We recommend that children should have their first eye test around the age of three. Good vision is crucial to a child’s development but it can be difficult to know if there is a problem when they are very young. Signs to look for include excessive blinking and rubbing of the eyes, sitting close to the TV or not making eye contact. NHS Sight Tests for children are free; however, we recommend that children have our enhanced eye examination which includes Optomap retinal scanning. The Enhanced Junior Examination carries a fee of £18.00.

Eye Health

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.

How do you test for glaucoma?

Part of the reason for having an eye examination is to check the health of your eyes. An eye examination will include the tests for glaucoma. These involve looking at 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. If they are not sure about the results of any of these tests they may either refer you to your doctor, or ask you to return to have the tests repeated on a different day. If you have glaucoma you are normally unaware of it, as it is normally quite painless and affects your sight very gradually. It is therefore very important that you have your eyes examined regularly, particularly if you are at a higher risk of glaucoma.

Can you stop macular degeneration?

A recent study (the Age Related Eye Disease (ARED) study) showed that some dietary supplements may reduce the incidence of age-related macular degeneration. In terms of treatment, there is unfortunately no treatment for dry AMD at present, but with wet AMD there are various laser eye treatments that can be used to slow or stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels to prevent any further loss of sight. One of the biggest things you can do to reduce your chances of developing AMD is to stop smoking. Smokers are 4 times more likely to develop AMD and so stopping, or not starting in the first place, really decreases the risk factor.

Can you cure macular degeneration?

There is currently no cure for macular degeneration, but there are several different treatments available for wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD).

What is a cataract?

This is when the lens inside the eye becomes cloudy. They can form at any age and are most often the result of getting older, however they can sometimes be the result of injury or from taking a specific type of medication. The treatment for cataracts is surgery.

Can cataracts be prevented?

A recent study (the ARED study mentioned above) looked at whether or not a particular dietary supplement reduced the incidence of cataracts. It was found that it did not. The initial symptoms of cataracts can be compensated for but they can’t be prevented.

What causes dry eyes?

Dry eyes can be due either to a problem with the quality of the tears or with the quantity of tears available. The differences may depend on age, diet, health, contact lens wear, atmosphere or occupation. Depending on the cause, the treatment may be hot compresses or just the use of tear supplements. Your practitioner will be able to advise after further investigation.

What diabetes-related eye problems are there?

People who are diabetic may find that their sight becomes blurry so that they need a change in their glasses prescription, or they may notice parts of their vision missing. They are also more prone to cataracts. If you get any of these diabetes eye symptoms you should consult your optometrist.

Can a detached retina be fixed?

Providing a retinal detachment is caught early enough it can be treated by an operation. There are several different types of operation, but all aim to reattach the retina to the back of the eye.

Why can I see floaters in my eyes?

Most people, particularly if they are shortsighted, have some floaters inside their eyes. These appear as little black spots or ‘flies’ which appear to float around in front of your sight. They move when you move your eyes and are normally more obvious when you are looking at a plain pale background (like a cloudless sky). They are normally quite innocent but if you get a shower of floaters, if you see lots of floaters after you have banged your head, if you see flashing lights in your eyes or a ‘curtain’ or ‘veil’ in front of your eyes, you should seek urgent medical attention.

What are the current medical standards of fitness to drive?

The publication “At a Glance Guide to the Current Medical Standards of Fitness to Drive” is revised and updated twice yearly in spring and autumn. The booklet represents the recommendations of the Secretary of State’s six expert Honorary Medical Advisory Panels on the medical standards for licensing as applied throughout Great Britain by DVLA’s medical advisers. The standards aim to reflect current clinical practice including advances in technology, coupled with an understanding of relevant risk factors for safe driving.

Can sitting too close to the TV be bad for your eyes?

There is no evidence that sitting close to the TV causes any harm to the eyes. However, television should be watched with the lights on, rather than off, as this should be more comfortable. Otherwise it is like looking at a (big) torch.

Can you stop short sight getting worse?

Short sight is usually caused because the eye is too big or the cornea is too steeply curved. That is why it tends to happen during the growth spurt of puberty. Whilst you cannot control how large (or long) your eye becomes, some people believe that wearing rigid contact lenses may slow down the progression of the short sight by reducing how steep the cornea becomes.

Does short-sightedness get worse with age?

Generally, the younger you are when you start becoming short sighted the worse it will be in adulthood as your eyesight will deteriorate faster. However, your sight will usually stop deteriorating when you’re around 20 years old.


Where can I buy good quality glasses?

To find the widest choice of top quality frames and lenses, whatever your budget, an established qualified optician is where you should be looking. At Eyesite we sell a huge range of frames and lenses that have been carefully selected to meet our stringent standards. Eyesite glasses start at extremely competitive prices so it’s really not necessary to cut corners on quality, whether you are looking for value or luxury.

Is it safe to buy glasses online?

Here at Eyesite we don’t advise that you buy glasses online. For something as important as your vision, there is no substitute for the expert advice and care that only a qualified optometrist can provide. Everyone’s head, face and eye measurements are different, which is why glasses need to be custom-built for the individual. Also, not all the information required appears on your prescription so it’s vital that all measurements are done by a trained optician. We have an online catalogue of glasses that you can browse. If you see anything you like then you can reserve them in our practice and come and receive your custom fitting service by one of our qualified experts.

How can I best take care of my glasses?

There are many tips for taking good care of your glasses. Using a case and having a scratch-resistant coating on your lenses is a good place to start. Our blog has a useful post on eyewear care for more information.

Are varifocals difficult to get used to?

There are many types of varifocals and they are not all the same. The most up-to-date lens technology eliminates most of the distortion and limited field of vision problems which the older designs still have. Here at Eyesite we not only use the latest lens technology, but we are also able to personalise your varifocals to give you the most comfortable and natural vision possible.

Can I buy reading glasses off the shelf or do I need to visit an optician?

The principle for choosing a pair of reading glasses is the same as for any pair of glasses – they should be made to your exact prescription and measurements to provide you with good quality, comfortable vision.

Ready-made reading glasses are basically magnifiers and are handy to use as a spare pair or for keeping in the car or toolbox for when you may need to carry out simple tasks. However, some ready-made reading glasses are of poor quality and have the potential to cause headaches and eye strain. The range of MaginifEYES we stock at Eyesite have distortion-free lenses and are available in many prescriptions.

Ready-made glasses should not be used without first having an eye examination to ensure that your eyes are healthy and that using them is not masking an underlying eye health issue.

Does my employer have to pay for spectacles?

The answer to this question depends on the kind of work that you do. If you require a specific prescription or corrective lenses to enable you to do your job working with DSE (Display Screen Equipment) then your employer must pay. However, if your usual prescription allows you to carry out DSE work then your employer does not have to pay.

Does wearing glasses make your eyesight worse?

There is no evidence to suggest that wearing glasses makes your eyesight worse. Most people need to wear glasses more as they get older, particularly if they are longsighted, and wearing glasses does not increase (or decrease) this dependence. If you become shortsighted when you are in your teens this is because your eyes are growing (shortsighted eyes are too big) and this also tends to get worse whether or not you wear your glasses. People tend to find that when they get their first pair of glasses their vision is so much clearer and more comfortable with the glasses that they are reluctant to make the effort to see without them. They are then surprised when they take their glasses off that their vision is apparently worse without them than they remember it being. In fact, their vision is not actually worse without specs than it was before they had the glasses, they have simply become accustomed to seeing more comfortably with the glasses.

Contact Lenses

Can I use my glasses prescription for contact lenses?

Whilst spectacle lenses sit in the frames about 12mm from your eye and contact lenses float on the surface of your eye, the prescription has to be modified, which is why a contact lens prescription is different from a spectacle prescription.

There is a lot more to contact lenses than you might think. In order to get the best vision, comfort and eye health we need to take some important measurements, examine your eyes, especially the front surface of your eyes, assess your eyelids and tears and, of course, work out the precise prescription.

Armed with this information, your practitioner can then help select the right contact lenses for you depending on your individual circumstances, lifestyle and vocation.

How do I book a contact lens appointment?

All our branches offer industry leading eye exam services. Whether you need an Introductory exam, an Extended or an Advanced eye exam, you can find the right appointment for you.

All of these eye tests vary in length and depth and give you a different level of insight into your vision and eye health.

What kinds of contact lenses do you offer?

At Eyesite, we have a range of contact lenses available from daily disposables to monthly lenses.

How long does it take to get used to contact lenses?

It depends on the type of lenses and how sensitive your eyes are. Most people find that soft lenses are comfortable after about 15-20 seconds. In terms of wearing lenses all day, lenses are rarely uncomfortable, even if you are slightly aware of them. After a few days most people forget they are wearing lenses and can only really feel them if they think about it.

In terms of getting used to handling lenses, we teach you how to apply the lens to your eye and how to remove them safely. Sometimes this takes a little practice, but given time everyone becomes proficient at application and removal of their lenses.

What happens if I have a problem with my lenses?

If your lenses are damaged or incorrect upon arrival simply contact your local store for a returns label, we will then give instructions on how to return the lenses to us, and once we have received your lenses back we will replace them immediately. Otherwise contact us for an appointment.

Is there a risk of eye infection if I wear contact lenses?

Only if you do not look after your contact lenses correctly. This is why you have to keep your contact lenses completely sterile before you put them in your eye. Bacteria need three things to live: food, water and warmth – all provided by your eye if they are in your contact lens! Soft lenses are filled with water so these organisms can therefore survive in them and in your contact lens storage case. If you use your contact lens solutions correctly, and follow the advice of your optician, the risk of infection is very low.

Why do I still need glasses when I have contacts?

Most people can’t wear contact lenses all day, every day. To keep your eyes nice and healthy they need to breathe normally. Best practice is to let them breathe in the evenings and preferably one whole day a week. Also, if you contract an eye infection, or have trouble adjusting to the comfort of contact lenses, you may need glasses instead. So, during those times, regular glasses are super handy.

Can I buy contact lenses online?

At Eyesite we offer a range of ways to buy contact lenses. We run easy payment plans so that you can have regular shipments delivered to you, as well as being able to buy your lenses in the practice at our Woking, Brighton, Oxford, Winchester or Reading practices or through our website.

Can you make bespoke contact lenses for unusual prescriptions?

Yes, these days contact lenses are produced on a global scale and hence are readily available in 99% of prescriptions, even to correct astigmatism and presbyopia. At Eyesite we supply lenses from the most reputable brands including Bausch & Lomb, Acuvue, Ciba Vision, Clariti and Sauflon.

The amazing technological advances made in contact lens materials and design means that we can select the best lenses to match your specific eyes and your lifestyle.

What about the other 1% of prescriptions?

As contact lens specialists we are able to provide bespoke contact lenses for those whose eyes do not fall within the parameters of mass produced lenses. These lenses are bespoke manufactured for the individual eye measurements.

How do I make a complaint?

If you are dissatisfied with the service or conduct of your optometrist you should try to resolve any difficulties directly with the practice. In most cases your problem will be successfully resolved without difficulty. If you cannot reach an amicable agreement with your practice you can refer the matter to your local Trading Standards Officer or local NHS organisation via your practitioner (NHS patients only). Alternatively, you may refer to one of the following bodies: Optical Consumer Complaints Service, PO Box 4685, London SE1 6ZB. If your complaint involves serious professional misconduct then your complaint can be referred to: The Registrar, The General Optical Council, 41 Harley Street, London W1N 2DJ.

Questions from Patients

My recent eye prescription is sphere +0.25 in both eyes (which I know is a very low prescription) so not too bothered by them, however, it says I have 0.5 horizontal prism base out in my left eye. Do I now need prism glasses or is this a low prescription that won’t make much difference? I’m a bit worried about it getting worse.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Prism correction is to help your eyes work together, so it can be helpful if you are symptomatic, but you are correct in saying that you can adapt to it, so it can get worse if you use prism spectacles.

0.5 horizontal prism is the lowest amount which can be prescribed. 

I can’t really comment on if you should have the spectacles made up, as I don’t know all the findings from the eye examination – it’s best to contact the optician who tested your eyes for further advice.

I’ve been suffering with recurrent flare ups of episcleritis now for 4 months. What I would like to know is do I go visit my GP and speak to them about it or am I best off going to see an Optician?

I went to visit a doctor at A&E 3 weeks ago, he gave me steroids eye drops and it took the redness and pain away but I’m still having problems with my eye.

I’m sorry to hear that you have been suffering with recurrent episcleritis. To answer your question of who to see WRT to your continued problems, it depends very much if your local CCG (clinical commissioning group) runs a MECS scheme (minor eye conditions). If they do, an optician who does MECS appointments could see you. If your area does not have a MECS scheme you might be better of seeing your GP.

I currently wear glasses however, when I don’t wear them I notice a black line in one of my eyes vision? Is this because I’m used to seeing the glasses? I didn’t bring it up to my optician because I didn’t see any need to worry however, I’ve noticed it’s getting worse?

I think it’s unlikely that this is due to the spectacles. This could be a floater, but any symptoms which are getting worse should be investigated by your optometrist – I would recommend you book in for an eye examination to get this looked at, to be sure you don’t have a problem.