How often should you get an eye exam?

How often should you get an eye exam? An image of a person holding black-framed glasses in front of eye exam letters
(Image credit: Getty)

How often should you get an eye exam? If you already wear glasses, you might ask yourself this often. Everyone needs regular eye tests because they give your optician the opportunity to check the health of your eyes, potentially spot any underlying problems, and give you advice about common issues such as dry eye syndrome.

An eye test also keeps your prescription (if you need one) up to date, which is necessary when shopping for new frames. Check out our guides to the best eyeglasses online and online contact lenses if you need an upgrade and want to shop from home.

When it comes to how often you should get an eye exam, the answer is influenced by several different factors. These include when you last had an eye test, your age, your health, and if you have problems with your vision. Let’s take a closer look now...

How often should you get an eye exam: Children

The Atlantic Eye Institute says that six months old is the right age to take a child to see an eye doctor for their first eye exam. After that, The College of Optometrists recommends that children under 16 have an eye test once a year.

However, this is general advice, and there are several circumstances in which children should have more regular eye exams – even if it hasn’t been a full year. The same guidance states that any children with a vision anomaly, such as binocular vision, should be seeing an eye doctor for an eye exam every six months.

A young child has their eyes tested during a routine eye exam

(Image credit: Getty)

The Atlantic Eye Institute also advises looking out for the key signs of digital eye strain and vision loss if you have children. That way you can catch problems early. Some of these signs include inattention, headaches, blurred vision, and tilting of the head to one side.

How often should you get an eye exam: Adults

According to advice published by The College of Optometrists, children over 16 and adults should have an eye exam every two years. However, people with underlying health conditions that affect eyesight, like diabetes, are advised to have eye exams every year.

The Atlantic Eye Institute suggests that adults aged over 40 book an eye test at least every two years. Between 40 and 64, your eyes can change a lot, and people of this age are also more likely to develop health conditions related to eyesight, including diabetes and high blood pressure. If you need to use a blood sugar monitor for diabetes management, see our guide to the best glucose meters.

Adults over 65 should have an eye test every year, as they are more likely to experience quicker vision changes, as well as the same health conditions that could affect eyesight. It’s crucial for people aged over 65 to tell their eye doctor if there’s a history of glaucoma, macular degeneration or cataracts in their family so any warning signs can be caught.

5 signs you should book an eye exam soon

Official guidelines suggest that everyone should have an eye exam every one to two years. But there are several things to consider that mean you should book an eye test sooner.

1. You haven’t had an eye exam in more than two years
If it’s been more than two years, book an eye test as soon as possible. You’ll find out your current prescription (if you need one) and whether it’s changed, and an eye doctor will look at the general health of your eye too.

An image of white pills from a brown bottle - some medication causes eye issues, which can be detected during an eye exam

(Image credit: Getty)

2. You’re at risk of eye issues
The Penn Medicine blog explains that some people are at a higher risk of developing eye problems. This includes people with a family history of eye disease and anyone with diabetes. These people should consider regular eye tests.

3. You’re experiencing eye problems
Redness in your eyes, double vision, floaters or unexplained pain. Book an eye exam for peace of mind if you have any eye problems. Your eye doctor might prescribe drops or spot a health problem.

4. Your vision has become noticeably worse
Your eye doctor should stay ahead of vision changes before they impact your day-to-day life. But your vision can get progressively worse quickly, so if you can’t read signs or text as well as you could, book an eye exam.

5. You’re on medication that could affect your eyesight
Some prescription medications can impact your vision. Ask your doctor before taking any new medicine to see if there are any side effects you need to be aware of, and make sure you book regular eye tests. 

What happens during an eye test?

Eye exams can vary depending on where you go, but on the whole there are a few things you can expect to happen. Your eye doctor will begin by asking you questions about your medical history, and if you’ve been experiencing any problems with your eyes.

They will then perform a series of tests, often using a large pair of chunky glasses filled with different lenses. This tests your vision and determines if you need glasses or not.

A woman with dark hair has her eyes tested by an optician

(Image credit: Getty)

Your eye doctor might also want to assess the general health of your eyes. This is carried out with a small light. All you have to do is sit still while the optician shines a light in your eye to ensure it looks healthy. This is also when the doctor might test the pressure of your eye with a tiny puff of air.

There are many more eye health tests, like a field of vision test, but unless you’re experiencing specific problems your eye doctor will probably stick to these three key steps. 

Should you get an in-person eye exam or use an online test?

Many online glasses companies offer eye tests online. For example, eyewear retailer Warby Parker has recently released a Virtual Vision Test app. These tests involve reading an eye chart, like the kind you find at an opticians. 

However, online eye tests are not advised if you have any health problems or you’re having difficulties with your vision. What’s more, many of these eye exams require you to know your current prescription and be happy with your current eyewear.

Dr Michael X Repka, the medical director of government affairs for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, says: “The public should understand that these online tests can measure the power of your eyeglass prescription, but they can’t detect eye diseases that often have hidden symptoms.”

That means many online tests might be helpful to confirm your current prescription in-between visits to your eye doctor as a quick way to check it’s right before you buy some new frames. However, you should still have an in-person eye examination every two years. 

Becca Caddy

Becca is an experienced tech, health and fitness journalist with bylines on many leading brands including TechRadar, New Scientist, Wired and others. For Top Ten Reviews, Becca loves writing about sleep and wellness, including why good sleep hygiene can help you snooze better than ever, and how to get more shut-eye (yes, it's possible). Becca is also the author of Screen Time, which looks at how we can all make peace with our devices and find our 'techquilibrium'.