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Private eye test (ophthalmic exam)

Regular eye tests are an essential and painless examination to check your vision and the health of your eyes.

Ophthalmologist performing an eye test (ophthalmic exam) on a patient
A private eye test is a painless procedure to check your vision and make sure your eyes are healthy. It may also be used to monitor existing eye conditions.

A private eye test will check your vision, make sure you have the best prescription if you wear glasses or lenses, and assess your eye health. Our expert eye doctors will also check for early signs of eye disease such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts. Regular eye tests may also detect conditions that are not eye-related like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and some cancers.

Call or book online today to arrange a consultation to discuss a private eye test with a consultant of your choice at Circle Health Group.

Regular eye tests are recommended for everyone, adults, and children alike as they provide regular monitoring of your eye health and early detection of visual problems or eye disease. Your eye health can also be a good indicator of your overall health.

The earlier problems with your vision or eye health are detected, the sooner you can start the correct treatment which may avoid the worsening of your condition in the future.

What are the benefits of a private eye test?

Even if you are entitled to a free eye test, you can still choose to have a private eye test. A private eye test is often more comprehensive and in-depth than a free eye test and provides a more detailed examination of your eye. Private eye tests also involve using the latest equipment and cutting-edge technology and may detect problems earlier than a free eye test.

It is recommended that most people have an eye test every one to two years. Your consultant may recommend more frequent eye tests if you are at a high risk of eye disease. This includes people who:

  • Are over sixty years of age
  • Are of African or Asian descent
  • Have a family history of eye disease
  • Have a health condition that can cause eye disease such as diabetes
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Wear glasses or contact lenses

At your first consultation, you will be seen by a consultant ophthalmologist, a doctor specialising in conditions affecting the eye.

Your consultant will ask you about your symptoms and medical history including any medical or eye conditions you have, and any medications you are taking. They will explain what will happen during the test and answer any questions you may have.

At Circle Health Group, your first appointment is very important as it's where we get to know you and discuss your symptoms, general health, and expectations for treatment. It is important to us that you are as well-informed and comfortable as possible before, during, and after your eye test, so please ask your consultant any questions you may have.

There is very little you need to do to prepare for your private eye test.

Everything you do need to do to prepare for your private eye test will be in your hospital appointment letter. If there's anything you're not sure about, or if you have any questions about how to prepare for your eye test, call the hospital for advice.

Make sure you allow enough time for your eye test (normally 30 minutes to an hour) and bring any glasses, lenses, or other visual aids with you to your appointment.

If you are having a dilated eye exam, (where drops are put into your eyes to make your pupils bigger), you may not be able to drive yourself home from your appointment. Dilated pupils can also make going out in sunlight uncomfortable, so bring a pair of sunglasses with you.

Your consultant will start your test by asking you some questions about your health. They may ask about:

  • Your symptoms
  • Your medical history
  • Your general health
  • Any medications you are taking
  • Any previous eye injury or surgery
  • Your family history
  • Your lifestyle
  • Any glasses, contact lenses or visual aids you use

They will then order some tests to check your vision and the health of your eyes. These may include:

Visual acuity test

This is a test where you cover one eye at a time and read letters and numbers on a chart. The letters and numbers get smaller as the chart progresses. You may also be asked to look through a device called a phoropter that has many lenses to see which best corrects your vision.

Visual field test

A visual field test checks your peripheral (outer) vision. During the test, your consultant gradually moves their finger, or an object from side to side and asks you to follow it without moving your head.

Colour vision test

This is a test to check for colour blindness and involves looking at images formed from coloured dots. The images contain numbers that you may not be able to see if you have colour vision deficiency.

Corneal topography

Corneal topography uses a computer to create a detailed map of your cornea. It is used to measure the curvature of your cornea and to diagnose astigmatism. The test is also used to fit contact lenses and prepare for corneal transplant surgery.

Ophthalmoscopy (fundoscopy)

Your consultant will put eye drops into your eye to dilate your pupils. This normally takes around 20 minutes. Once your pupils are dilated, your consultant will shine a bright light into your eye and examine your cornea, lens, optic nerve, retina, and blood vessels for signs of damage or disease.

Slit-lamp exam

When your pupils are dilated, your consultant uses a special microscope called a slit lamp to examine your eyes under high magnification.


This is a test to measure the pressure inside your eye. High pressure can be a sign of an eye condition called glaucoma. During the test, you place your chin on the device and focus on a picture while the device blows a small puff of air onto your eye.

Fundus photography and optical coherence tomography (OCT)

During this test, a camera or scanner takes thousands of images of your eye over a few seconds. It is used to diagnose problems with your optic nerve, retina, and cornea.

There's no recovery time needed after your private eye test, and you will be able to go home straight after your appointment.

If you were given eye drops to dilate your pupils, your eyes may sting slightly, and your vision may be blurred for a few hours. You may not be able to drive safely or perform close-up tasks like reading or computer work. You may find sunlight uncomfortable, so bring a pair of sunglasses with you to your appointment.

Dilating eye drops wear off after around four to six hours.

Will I be able to drive home?

If you were given dilating eyedrops, your vision may be blurred, and you may find it hard to focus for a few hours after your private eye test. If you are not sure how the eye drops will affect you, it is best to ask someone to collect you or use an alternative means of getting home.

How soon can I go back to work?

Most people can go back to work immediately after their private eye test. If you were given dilating eye drops, you may find it difficult to perform tasks like reading or computer work for a few hours until the drops have worn off.

How soon can I drive?

Some people are fine to drive straight away after a private eye test. For other people, the eye drops used to dilate your pupils can make driving difficult for a few hours. If you haven't had dilating eye drops before, you should find an alternative way of getting home until you know how they affect you. Dilating eye drops normally wear off after around four to six hours after which you are safe to drive.

When will I be back to normal?

There is no recovery time needed after a private eye test and you will be back to normal immediately after your appointment.

We answer some of your most commonly asked questions about private eye tests.

How much is a private eye test?

The cost of a private eye test at Circle Health Group will be different depending on where you have it and which consultant you choose, as well as factors personal to you such as your age and medical history. In general it is considered to be a low cost private treatment.

If you would like a personalised quote, give us a call and one of our friendly advisors can help you.

If you choose to pay for your own private eye test, we offer flexible payment options so that you can spread the cost if you wish to.

Are there any risks or potential complications of a private eye test?

A private eye test is a non-invasive procedure that does not have any known risks or complications.

Can you have a private eye test after cataract surgery?

After cataract surgery, it is recommended that you wait around six weeks before having a private eye test. This is to allow your eye to settle down and recover fully from surgery.

How long does a private eye test take?

A private eye test normally takes between 30 minutes and one hour.

Which is better, a private or NHS eye test?

Whether an NHS or private eye test is better for you, depends on many factors including your medical history, age, general health, eye health and preference. A private eye test usually examines your eyes in more detail and may pick up abnormalities earlier than an NHS eye test. In addition, most private hospitals have access to the latest, most advanced equipment when performing eye tests.

At Circle Health Group, we have the experience and expertise to ensure the best possible care and outcome for our patients. As a patient with Circle Health Group, you can expect the highest standards of care including:

  • Flexible appointment times and locations that are convenient for you
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant suit your needs
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams
  • Private ensuite rooms as standard
  • A range of delicious healthy meals
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help you spread the cost of your care

If you would like to see a consultant or learn more about a private eye test, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in April 2023. Next review due April 2026.

  1. Eye Exam and Vision Testing Basics ,American Academy of Opthalmology
  2. Eye Exam, Mayo Clinic
  3. Eye Exam: What to expect, Cleveland Clinic

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