Michael Lowe & Partners FAQ


Why are eye examinations so important?


Eye examinations ensure you are enjoying the best possible vision from your eyes whether you wear glasses or not. Regular eye tests are also important because your eyes don’t usually hurt when something is wrong. A sight test is a vital health check for your eyes that can pick up early signs of eye conditions before you’re aware of any symptoms – many of which can be treated if found early enough.

How regularly should I have my eyes tested?


A regular examination interval can range from 6 months for a developing eye in a child, to 2 years for a healthy adult with no sign of eye abnormality. Other intervals include annual checks for diabetics, people with cataracts or other conditions that need closer monitoring.

How long does an eye test take?


An eye test can take anything from 20 to 30 mins (on average, sometimes more) depending upon what problems/symptoms the patient presents, and any further testing that maybe needed to confirm or rule-out any particular diagnosis.

Who has to pay for their eye tests?


People who qualify for free eye examinations include everyone under 16, under 19 in full time education, over 60’s, people in receipt of income support, working family tax credit, income based job seekers allowance, pension credit, people who are diabetic or glaucoma sufferers, people over 40 with an immediate blood relative with glaucoma, people with high risk of glaucoma and certain people with very bad eye sight. Others have to pay a fee of £40.00 for a private examination.

I use a computer all day, do I get help with the cost of my eye test and/or glasses?


If you spend more than 1/3 of your day in front of a VDU screen, then you are classified as a ‘user’. The government strongly encourages companies who employ such people to pay for the provision of a sight test and make a contribution towards the cost of an optical appliance if it is needed solely and exclusively for VDU wear. Most companies adhere very well to these regulations, but there are still some firms who make the patient cover their own costs. Therefore speak to your employer for final approval before the examination.

What is myopia and hypermetropia?


These are the technical terms for short-sightedness and long-sightedness respectively.

What is an astigmatism?


This is where the eye is more oval in shape than round, so more like a rugby ball than a football.

Do I still need a check-up every 2 years if everything seems ok?


Absolutely. Things can change very rapidly in the human eye, and more often than not, early detection is essential in helping to prevent problems from getting any worse.

Children FAQ's

At what age can a child be examined?


Children can be examined at any age. Through methods called ‘objective testing’, we can assess very accurately the health, prescription and muscle status of an eye without talking to the patient at all. We recommend that all children should be tested routinely after the age of 4, but earlier if there seems to be a problem.

How can I tell if my child has an eye problem?


This can sometimes be very difficult without proper training, however you should watch out for any sign of squinting as the child looks at objects, a white pupil in a photo of the child, any apparent turn in one eye, unusually regular scratching or rubbing of the eye or headaches.

Why does my child need an eye test when they are checked at school?


The school only provides screening by a nurse checking for only the most obvious of eye problems such as grossly reduced vision. Often a squint, lazy eye or certain eye diseases are much more subtle in appearance and are therefore much harder to pick up without specialist training and equipment.

Contact Lenses

Can I wear contact lenses if I have an astigmatism?


Yes, by use of a specialist lens called a ‘Toric’ contact lens.

My prescription has an expiry date, can I still buy contact lenses after this?


No. It is illegal for anyone to sell contact lenses to somebody without a valid and in date prescription. This is for a good reason, that a contact lens could as easily make you go blind as it can help you see, if not checked on a regular basis. Most contact lens prescriptions will expire 6 months after being issued.

Can I use tap water, saliva or other liquids to clean my contact lenses?


Definitely not. Micro-organisms such as bacteria, viruses or tiny worms called ‘Protazoa’ are abundant all around us, but particularly in our mouths, on our hands before we wash them and in water tanks in our homes. If any of these get onto your lens, the next place they go is in your eye. This is why you must only ever use the solution recommended by your Optician.

Does this mean Contact Lenses are unsafe and carry a high risk of infection?


If handled carefully, and checked regularly, contact lens wear can be an incredibly safe and effective way to correct your vision. However, not everyone is suitable for contact lenses, so those interested should always seek a professional opinion before commencing lens wear.

Can I get Contact Lenses from my spectacle prescription?


No. A contact lens sits far closer to your eye than a spectacle lens, and it also utilises the tears to form part of your vision correction. As a result, your necessary contact lens strength is often very different to that of your glasses.

What do I do if my eye is red, sore or uncomfortable with the lens in?


You should remove the lens immediately and contact us to book an appointment.

How often do I need to change my contact lens case?


Contact lens cases rapidly build up dirt, deposits and dangerous micro-organisms from your lenses and their surrounding environment. It is often difficult to detect the presence of these in your case. It is therefore highly recommended that you change it at least every 6-12 weeks.

If I have contacts, why do I need glasses as well?


Often we need contacts because we cannot see well without them. If you have an infection in your eye and cannot wear your lenses, or you lose or damage a lens, then spectacles are essential for you to carry on your day to day activities without interruption. Also, those people who only have contact lenses, tend to wear them for far longer periods than is advisable. If you have accurate spectacles as well, then you are far more likely to treat your contact lenses with the respect they demand.


What is Cataracts?


A cataract is a cloudiness or opacification of the lens inside the eye. Some of the light entering the eye is prevented from reaching the light detecting receptors in the retina. The light that does manage to get through the lens can be distorted and hazy. A cataract acts in a similar way to a dirty or smudged camera lens.

Cataracts interfere with light on its journey to the retina, causing glare, especially noticed by drivers at night from oncoming traffic. Other symptoms of cataracts are blurriness of either distance vision, near vision or both, and it can also cause perception of colours to be altered.

What causes a Cataract?


A cataract results when the protein of the lens inside the eye changes causing opacities in the previously transparent lens. Aging, sunlight, smoking, poor nutrition, systemic disease (e.g. diabetes), certain medications (e.g. steroids) and trauma to the eye have been linked to causing cataracts.

Exposure to harmful ultra violet light is also a leading cause of cataract. The use of good UV protective sunglasses is therefore a very practical way to reduce the risk of cataract development.

How can Cataracts be diagnosed?


Most people over 60 years will have some degree of change in the lens inside the eye. Many years ago patients had to wait until the cataract was “ripe” or fully developed before it was removed. With modern advances in technology and micro-surgery the timing of treatment is now determined by the benefit to each individual patient. Small degrees of cataract can cause significant problems to a younger working person. Older people, especially living alone or caring for a partner also need special consideration even with the earliest cataract changes if they are to function properly. Regular eye examinations are important to monitor these subtle changes to ensure that a referral for cataract removal can be made at the most appropriate time.

How is it treated?


The entire lens is removed using an ultra-sonic probe, which dissolves the lens and removes it from the eye. A foldable artificial lens is put in its place through a small incision. The procedure is usually performed under local anesthetic unless there are special circumstances in which a general anesthetic is required. The operation itself only takes about 30 minutes and an overnight stay is rarely required. The prescription for spectacles will be altered by the operation, so four to six weeks after the surgery, when the eye has settled, you will have to return to your Optometrist for an eye examination to correct your sight fully.

There are very few complications with cataract surgery, but it is not without some risk. The most common complication after cataract surgery is thickening of the lens capsule, the ‘bag’ in which the lens sits, and can occur up to 5 years after surgery causing symptoms similar to the cataract again. This capsular thickening can be treated easily without surgery using a specialised laser to clear the opacification.


What is Glaucoma?


Many eye conditions develop slowly. As we have two eyes, changes in one eye are masked by the normal vision of the other eye. With glaucoma the peripheral vision deteriorates starting in very small areas of the field of vision and with only vague changes at first. These are initially always masked by the overlapping field of vision of the other eye and the progress of the deterioration and ultimate loss of sight can take several years.

What Is Glaucoma?


Glaucoma is a term that describes a group of eye conditions that affect vision and the visual field of the eye. Glaucoma often affects both eyes, usually in varying degrees. One eye may develop glaucoma quicker than the other. Because one visual field of one eye overlaps the other the symptoms are not obvious to the patient until there is significant damage.

What Causes Glaucoma?


Glaucoma occurs when the drainage tubes (trabecular meshwork) within the eye become slightly blocked. This prevents eye fluid (aqueous humour) 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 fibres from the retina (the light-sensitive nerve tissue that lines the back of the eye).

How is it diagnosed?


There are a battery of tests that need to be carried out to diagnose Glaucoma. A comprehensive eye examination will pick up any abnormalities which will lead to early diagnosis and treatment.

How can it be treated?


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 future damage.

If left untreated, glaucoma can cause visual impairment. However, if it is diagnosed and treated early enough, further damage to vision can be prevented.

What are the statistics of Glaucoma?


The majority of glaucomas are called ‘simple’ or ‘chronic’. They are normally age-related and occur in the over forties. Between 1% and 2% of the population get glaucoma and the chances of developing the condition are greater if close members of the family have it. ‘Acute glaucoma’ usually affects younger people and commences with discomfort and a red eye. However, mild symptoms of eyestrain or even difficulty with reading can sometimes be associated with glaucoma.

The easiest way to be sure that your sight is safe is to have your eyes examined regularly.

Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD)

What is ARMD?


Age related macular degeneration is an eye disease that causes impairment of the central vision by damaging the macula – the part of the eye developed for seeing very fine detail. ARMD is the main cause of irreversible visual impairment in the western world.

Patients with early ARMD often notice that they are unable to recognise peoples faces from a distance, or that words on a page seem distorted.

What causes ARMD?


An accumulation of waste material takes place within the delicate structures of the central retina over a lifetime due to poor re-absorption. This damages the photoreceptors cells in the retina responsible for sending information to the brain and causes distortion and blurring of central vision. Fortunately a person with ARMD will not go completely blind because it is only the central vision that is affected.

There are two types of ARMD: wet and dry. The dry type is the more common form (90% of ARMD), and causes a mild impairment of central vision over months and years.

The wet type is more serious, and can cause a severe reduction of central vision over a relatively short time. The damage caused by the wet type is due to leaky blood vessels developing within the layers of the retina causing distortion and eventually scar tissue.

Occasionally the dry type can become wet. In most cases of wet ARMD only one eye will be affected initially. Often this may go unnoticed by the patient because the remaining ‘good’ eye makes up for the deficient affected eye.

ARMD has been linked to age, smoking, and poor nutrition. There are other types of macular degeneration that affect younger people. In most of these cases there is a family history of premature macular problems.