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Opticians are still providing essential services to care for the nation’s eye health while the UK is in isolation.
Wherever possible these essential services are being provided remotely, via a telephone consultation or video conference. Where this is not possible and your eye care practitioner specifically asks you to attend a practice in person you will see new hygiene and social distancing measures introduced for your, and the optical staff’s, safety.
To help you keep your eyes and vision healthy during the coronavirus lockdown here’s our guide to current primary eye care services and some top tips for looking after your eyes.



Sight tests and routine optical appointments
Routine eye tests and optical appointments have been suspended across the UK until further notice.

If you had an appointment booked for the coming weeks your practice is likely to have been in touch to postpone. If you have not heard anything and are concerned about an upcoming appointment check the practice website or give them a call. Do not attend an appointment unless your optical practice has specifically asked you to do so.



Your eyewear
If you were due to pick-up spectacles or repeat contact lens prescriptions contact your practice for advice on collections and eyewear delivery services. Your practice will also be able to advise you via phone or email what to do if your contact lens prescription has expired.

It’s important to keep your spectacles clean and to carefully follow guidance on wearing and caring for your contact lenses during the coronavirus pandemic.

Guide to wearing and caring for your eyewear during COVID19 pandemic

If you or somebody in your household has coronavirus or flu-like symptoms stop wearing your contact lenses until symptoms have subsided. Keep your contacts out whilst isolating for seven days after the onset of coronavirus symptoms.

If your eyes feel sore or irritated whilst wearing contacts take them out. Remember. If in doubt, take them out.

If you break or lose your spectacles and are unable to function properly without them call your optical practice who will be able to arrange a repair or replacement for you.

Key workers, elderly and vulnerable patients will be treated as a priority.


Urgent and essential eyecare
Optical practices in every local area are still providing essential eye care. Most practices are still open for remote consultations over the phone or via video conference. If after a remote consultation your eye care practitioner needs to refer you for a face-to-face consultation they will direct you where to go.

Contact your optician if…


  • your vision has suddenly changed or become blurry
  • you have a painful or red eye
  • you have been referred by NHS 111, your GP practice or other healthcare professional
  • you have broken or lost your glasses and can’t function properly without them
  • you have a problem with your contact lenses
  • you have a foreign body in your eye
  • you are worried about your vision or eye health


Please call your optical practice to confirm your visit is essential before leaving home as opticians are seeing patients by appointment only.

Opening times may also have changed during lockdown. Check your optician’s website for details.

If your practice has had to close temporarily they will refer you to another in your local area. Please call them or visit their website for details.

If you are not registered with an optical practice, you can find details of local opticians on the NHS website here 

Your local GP surgery will also have a list of optical practices providing urgent and essential eyecare in your local area.

If you have an out-of-hours medical emergency – a sudden and severe change in your vision, eye pain or trauma (eg: a foreign body entering the eye or exposure to a chemical substance) – you should contact your local eye accident and emergency service.

Find your nearest service here

NHS 111 is also available 24hrs a day, 7 days a week.



First aid for your eyes
Read this extract from Vista magazine for more information about first aid for your eyes

First aid for your eyes



Treating minor eye problems
Many minor eye conditions can simply be treated at home using over-the-counter medicines or homemade remedies.

Click here to download our leaflet for treating minor eye conditions leaflet


There have been some recent press reports about a link between COVID19 and conjunctivitis. As with any other infection of the upper respiratory tract it is thought that viral conjunctivitis may display as a secondary complication to COVID19.

Conjunctivitis is not currently listed as a symptom of COVID19 and where it has been present in COVID19 patients it has occurred as a late feature and secondary to a fever or continuous cough.

Advice from the College of Optometrist and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists is to manage conjunctivitis as you normally would and follow strict hygiene procedures.

Viral conjunctivitis is a self-limiting condition that your body’ own immune system will fight off.

To control the spread of conjunctivitis, you should keep your hands away from your face, regularly wash your hands (with soap and water for 20 seconds) and do not share towels, washcloths, cosmetics or eye drops with others.



Post-operative care
If your optician is providing you with aftercare following surgery, eg: for cataracts, your practice will likely have been in touch to advise you on next steps. If you are concerned about your vision or eye health following surgery contact your optical practice directly.


Using eye drops
Current government advice is to avoid touching your face. However, if you have been prescribed eye drops for conditions such as glaucoma, dry eye or uveitis it is important that you continue to administer them. Make sure you follow the government's advice on handwashing before and after administering the drops.

Handwashing advice


Glaucoma patients
The IGA has issued guidance to help people with glaucoma manage the condition during the pandemic. Visit the IGA website for more info


Eye injections
The Macular Society website has the latest guidance on visiting your local eye clinic for macular degeneration (AMD) appointments and how to access its support services during lockdown. Click here for more information


Domiciliary eye care
Home visits by opticians have been suspended however, your regular domiciliary optician will be able to provide you with remote consultations over the phone or via video conferencing.


Healthcare heroes
If an optical practice has temporarily closed, staff are, where possible, being redeployed to help NHS colleagues working in wider primary care community; support NHS colleagues working in the acute COVID-19 response; or, work with the local authority and voluntary services COVID-19 response.


Top tips for keeping your eyes and vision healthy in self isolation

Poor eye health can have a tangible influence on your quality of life affecting both your mental and physical well-being.*

Here are our top tips to help keep your eyes and vision healthy when isolating during the coronavirus pandemic.


Be Screen Smart
We’re all using our screens more during isolation so help banish ‘screen fatigue’ – sore, itchy or tired eyes; headaches; impaired colour perception and temporary blurring – by following the 20-20-20 rule. Look up from your screen every 20 minutes and focus on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.


Get active
Exercise is crucial for so many areas of our health, including our eye health. Being physically active has been shown to reduce your risk of visual impairment by 58 per cent, compared to somebody with a sedentary lifestyle.**

Aerobic exercise can help increase oxygen supplies to the optic nerve and lower any pressure that builds up in the eye. Reducing intraocular pressure can help control conditions such as glaucoma.

Walking briskly when you are out on your daily lockdown exercise is a good place to start.***

The NHS fitness studio has a series of online workouts that you can try during isolation.

Joe Wicks (The Body Coach Youtube channel) and Mr Motivator (BBC Healthcheck programme) are also doing daily home workouts for the whole family.


Quit smoking
There has never been a better time to quit the habit if you are a smoker. Not only are smokers at higher risk of COVID19 they are at significantly greater risk of sight loss than non-smokers.

Toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage the delicate surface and the internal structure of the eye. This can lead to an increased risk of many eye conditions including AMD; nuclear cataracts; thyroid eye disease; dry eye and impaired colour vision.

Click here for help to quit 


Eat right for good sight
Most of us have no idea that what we eat can affect how well we see, however, eye-friendly nutrients found in many fruit and vegetables and fatty acids derived from fish, nuts and oils can all help protect your sight. Vitamins B and E can help protect against cataracts whilst Omega-3 fish oils help maintain healthy blood vessels inside the eye.

Drink plenty of water to keep your eyes hydrated.
Cover up
Exposure to UV light can increases your risk of developing macular degeneration and cataract. So, make sure you slip on some sunglasses when the UV index rises to three or more and you are out on your daily exercise or enjoying time in the garden.

Always check your sunglasses have a CE, British Standard or UV 400 mark to ensure they provide adequate UV protection.

And, don’t forget to protect kids’ eyes too.

Click here for today’s UV Forecast for the UK

Every year in the UK 30,000 people suffer an eye injury whilst doing DIY.**** Wearing safety goggles whilst undertaking any DIY, car maintenance or larger jobs around the garden will minimise the risk of foreign bodies, chemical burns or other serious eye trauma.

This is particularly important during lockdown as A&E departments across the country are reporting an increase in people presenting with DIY related injuries.

Remember, don’t attempt ambitious DIY or garden projects during lockdown and always ensure you wear appropriate safety gear.


Outdoor play
During isolation it’s important to get kids into the garden. Spending two hours a day outdoors has been shown to reduce the risk of myopia (short-sightedness) in children.*****


Watch your weight.
More than half of all British adults are overweight however maintaining a healthy weight helps preserve macula pigment density, which in turn, helps protect the retina against the breakdown of cells and the onset of AMD.

Obesity also puts you at increased risk of diabetic retinopathy and damage to blood vessels in the eye caused by excess body weight has been linked to glaucoma.

Eat well and stay active during isolation.



* JAMA Ophthalmol 2016:134(9):959-966

**  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4047137/

*** Always follow NHS guidance when starting a new exercise regime. Cease performing exercise if you experience any pain, discomfort, dizziness or tingling. Call 111 if you feel unwell during or after.

**** DTI

***** Various including Britol University and Ulster University


Published : 6 April 2020