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Eye health centre

Diagnosing age-related cataracts

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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If you have problems with your vision, make an appointment to see your optician (also known as an optometrist). An optician can examine your eyes and test your sight. They are trained to recognise sight defects and eye conditions.

Eye examination

The optician may look at your eyes with an instrument called an ophthalmoscope. An ophthalmoscope has a light on the end that produces a magnified image of your eye. By shining a bright light into your eye, the ophthalmoscope enables the optician to look inside your eye.

If you have cataracts, your optometrist will be able to see them in your eye. They will also be able to see how much of your lens is affected.


In some cases, you may be referred to an ophthalmologist or an ophthalmic surgeon who will be able to confirm the diagnosis and plan your treatment. Ophthalmologists and ophthalmic surgeons are doctors who specialise in eye conditions and their treatment.

Read more about how age-related cataracts are treated.

Free eye tests

Sometimes, cataracts are diagnosed during a regular eye test, even if you have had no symptoms.

For some people, eye tests are available free of charge on the NHS. These people include those who are:

  • under 16 years old, or under 19 and in full-time education
  • aged 60 or over
  • diagnosed with  diabetes or glaucoma 
  • considered to be at risk of developing glaucoma (as advised by an eyecare specialist)
  • receiving certain benefits, such as Income Support

If you don't qualify for a free NHS eye test, you'll have to pay a fee, which is usually about £25 to £30.

Read our  NHS opticians FAQ for more information about eye tests. In general, it's a good idea to have your eyes tested every two years.

Medical Review: April 16, 2012

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