Frequently asked questions

This section provides answers to some of the more frequently asked questions about eye health and vision care.

I didn’t know that I had a vision problem until my eye health professional told me—is that normal?

Many conditions do not initially cause any noticeable problems and therefore people often are unaware there is an issue with the health of their eyes. Regular eye tests with an eye health professional are essential for the early detection of eye disease. Half of the people with glaucoma in Australia do not know they have the disease. This is often also the case with diabetic retinopathy, with many people unaware of the condition until it is in the later stages.

In Australia, 90% of vision loss is preventable or treatable if detected early. Save your sight – get tested.

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How can I book an eye test?

Eye tests can be booked by contacting your local optometrist directly. You can also talk to your GP who will be able to redirect you to a local optometrist or refer you to an ophthalmologist if required.

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How can I find an optometrist?

You can search for a list of your local optometrists by visiting the Good Vision For Life website.

To find an optometrist who speaks a language other than English in your area contact Optometry Victoria South Australia on 03 9652 9100.

You can also contact the Australian College of Optometry on 03 9349 7400.

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How much does an eye test cost?

Medicare rebates are available for most eye examinations, but the availability of bulk-billing may vary between practitioners. Ask your optometrist to confirm if there will be any out of pocket costs to you for services provided when making your appointment.

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I have been diagnosed with an eye condition, should I register with the National Disability Insurance Agency?

Yes. Whether or not you are already experiencing vision loss because of the eye condition, it is important that, if you are aged under 65, you register with the National Disability Insurance Agency so that if you may need assistance in the future you can benefit from the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Be aware that not everyone is eligible to register, visit the National Disability Insurance Scheme website for more information.

Note: The National Disability Insurance Scheme is being introduced across Australia over time. To find out where and when it is in place in Victoria at the moment, visit the roll out information available on the National Disability Insurance Scheme website.

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What is legal blindness?

Vision loss can impact sight in different ways (affecting colours, lighting, shapes etc). A person with low vision has permanent vision loss that cannot be corrected with glasses affecting their daily life. ‘Vision impaired’ or ‘partially sighted’ are also common terms used to describe a person living with vision loss. Only a few people have no sight at all. More commonly, people will have a small patch of vision or are able to determine light and shadows. A person is considered legally blind if they cannot see at six metres what someone with normal vision can see at 60 metres or if their field of vision is less than 20 degrees in diameter (visit the Vision Australia website).

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Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

Is AMD painful?

No. AMD doesn’t cause physical pain or discomfort. AMD can occur without you being aware of it in the beginning. That’s why regular eye tests (including a check of the retina) are essential to detect AMD early.

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Can I check my retina or macula for signs of damage myself before I have symptoms?

No. Your retina lines the inside of your eye and needs an eye test by an eye health professional where your pupils are dilated to check the health of retina or macula. Although you may not be able to check your retina or macula for damage, you may use an Amsler Grid to identify signs of change in your vision.

For more information, read our page on age-related macular degeneration.

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Has my cataract been caused by overuse of my eyes?

No. However exposure to ultraviolet light (sun light) can increase the chance of cataracts developing so it is a good idea to protect your eyes from the sun by wearing a hat and sunglasses.

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Are there different kinds of cataract?

Yes. Most cataracts are age related, but other examples include congenital (present at birth), drug induced (steroids), and traumatic (injury to the eye). Cataracts often develop in both eyes at the same time.

For more information, read our page on cataracts.

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Diabetic retinopathy

Why does my vision fluctuate a lot?

These changes could be due to high blood glucose levels which can cause temporary changes to the lens in the eye. When blood glucose levels are reduce, blurriness usually disappears. Vision changes can also be a symptom of diabetic retinopathy. If you experience changes in your vision, visit an optometrist, or speak to your GP or ophthalmologist.

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Is there any point putting in effort into diabetic control if I already have diabetic retinopathy?

Yes. There is strong evidence that progression can be slowed by 50 per cent, particularly in mild and moderate diabetic retinopathy. Good diabetic control may also slow progression of other diabetic related issues such as kidney damage and ensure surgical procedures such as cataract surgery are not delayed.

For more information, visit our page on diabetic retinopathy.

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Can glaucoma be blinding?

Yes, if left undetected and untreated glaucoma my result in blindness. This is why early detection is so important. Treatment for glaucoma can control the disease progress and slow the rate of vision loss. It is important that treatment plans are followed and regular reviews with your eye health professional are in place to monitor the progress of the glaucoma. Vision lost from glaucoma cannot be regained.

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I have heard that glaucoma is painful — is this true?

There are different types of glaucoma. More often than not people who have glaucoma have no symptoms in the early stages. Glaucoma often goes undetected until it is advanced and vision loss has been experienced. Very rarely, people may develop a sudden-onset, painful form of glaucoma with loss of vision. This is a medical emergency – seek urgent medical attention.

For more information, visit our page on glaucoma.

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Refractive error

Will my eyes be damaged by wearing the wrong glasses?

No. Wearing the wrong glasses will cause blurry vision while they are worn and may make your eyes feel uncomfortable, but it will not damage your eyes. It is important however that children do not wear the wrong glasses as this may affect the development of their eyes. If you have any concerns about your child’s eyes, see an eye health professional without delay.

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Are ready made glasses harmful to your eyes?

No. Ready-made glasses can be very useful to assist with near vision problems but they may not improve your vision as much as your true prescription. It is still important that you have regular eye tests with an eye health professional when using ready-made glasses to ensure any eye disease is detected at an early stage. Needing ready-made glasses may be a symptom of an undetected eye disease and should be assessed by an eye health professional as soon as possible. I used to have good vision, but now my eyes are ‘bad’.

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Why can’t I see to read without glasses anymore?

As we get older, just as our hair goes grey as part of the ageing process, the lens inside the eye slowly becomes inelastic and does not focus on near objects like it did when we were younger. The need to wear reading glasses is a normal part of ageing and it does not mean that your eyes are unhealthy. However, as eye disease becomes more common as we get older, this is a natural ‘trigger’ for you to have regular eye tests with an eye health professional to rule out eye diseases that may cause problems later in life if left undetected.

For more information, read our page on refractive error.

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