Eye tests

Like six-monthly dentist appointments and regular check ups with your local GP, eye tests are an important component to looking after your personal health - and one that many of us are guilty of taking for granted.

Why do I need an eye test?

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking eye tests are only necessary for those experiencing impaired vision or pain in their eyes.

The truth is eye tests are essential for your general well-being, and can help to lift the veil on any health problems that may have previously gone undetected. These can include diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension and even cancer. It is recommended to have your eyes tested every 2 years even if you do not have any problems with your vision.

Are there any discounts available to me?

It's always a good idea to check and see if you're eligible for any discounts before you book your appointment with your nearest optician.

First of all, if you're under 16, under 19 and in full-time education, or over 60, you will automatically qualify for a free eye test courtesy of the NHS. If you live in Scotland, meanwhile, you are entitled to a free test regardless of your age or personal circumstances.

Although the major high street chains are anything but charities, they may also have discounts on offer if you go at the right times - so have a look around before you commit to one company. Be aware that the cost may vary and the averrage price for eye test is £20-£25.

Booking an appointment

If you meet the criteria for a free NHS test then you may have to go on a waiting list, but the appointment shouldn't be more than a few weeks from your first contact.

For everyone else, appointments should be available fairly soon after you call up - as companies are often keen to sell discounted eyewear as part of their service. If you already wear glasses or contact lenses your company will probably send you promotional material regularly - otherwise you will need to shop around (see below).

Which high street chain is best?

According to popular consensus (along with common sense), industry leaders like Specsavers, Optical Express and Vision Express offer the most comprehensive service, and have the best collection of eyewear should you need to buy your first set of glasses or are looking to upgrade to a designer pair.

But in recent years, the likes of Tesco, Asda and Boots are beginning to provide some competition, and come with the added bonus of being available on the shop floor (which means punters are often pulled in while on their weekly shop). Tesco in particular have earned plaudits for their service, and even offer free eye tests at participating stores.