Prevention of eye conditions

Lead a healthy lifestyle, to include:

  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet. Find out more about nutrition and eyesight here.
  • Stay physically active, do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week.  To find a new activity or club near you take a look at Active Derbyshire.
  • Maintain a healthy weight (BMI between 18.5 - 25 or 23 for Black, Asian and other ethnic minority groups). The NHS has a BMI Calculator and a weight loss plan that you can access.
  • People with diabetes should ensure they control their blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol. Diabetic eye screening appointments should also be attended.
  • Quit smoking – For support to stop smoking Derbyshire patients can access the Live Life Better Derbyshire service and Derby patients can access the Live Well service.
  • Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum of no more than 14 units per week. If you are finding it difficult to reduce your level of alcohol use the Derbyshire Recovery Partnership who can offer you help and support.
  • If you’d like to think further about your lifestyle factors take the How Are You Quiz for an assessment and to find out ways to improve your health and wellbeing.
  • The Better Health web page offers advice on quitting smoking, losing weight and getting active, including app suggestions such as Easy Meals, Couch to 5k and Drink free days.

Prevent eye injuries:

  • Remember, it only takes a split second for injuries to occur.
  • Wear eye protection where appropriate at work, at home with any DIY projects, or helping or working with others where there can potentially be eye injuries.
  • Take care in the garden as well, with chemicals and protruding or overhanging objects or branches.
  • When working with chemicals, be very careful with splashes and spillages. Do not rub your eyes when handling chemicals.
  • If you do happen to get any chemicals in your or others eyes, the best thing is immediately washing the eyes out as much as possible. If you do need to seek attention, please make a note of the chemical name, or carry, the chemical bottle with you to show the person attending to you.

Reduce screen time – the ‘20’ rule, every 20 minutes take a 20-second break and focus on an object 20 feet away. Take the Screen Smart quiz here.

Attend sight tests at regular intervals as advised by your Optician  – this is essential to pick up on any potential conditions early

Follow contact lens hygiene advice, for some helpful tips take a look here.

Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the UV light in sunlight

Throw away out of date make-up. Adhere to ‘Period after Opening’ times on cosmetics.

Take a look at this quiz to find if there is more that you could be doing more to keep your eyes and vision healthy.

Why is a sight test important?

Many people think that a sight test is just about checking whether your vision needs correcting with glasses or contact lenses. But there are other important reasons to have a regular sight test.

A sight test is a vital check on the health of the eyes and includes the detection of eye conditions. Many of these, if found early, can be treated successfully, avoiding potential sight loss.

A sight test can also detect other health conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Sight tests should be part of everyone’s healthcare routine.

111 Online Symptom Checker

If you are worried about a symptom you are experiencing, the 111 NHS Symptom Checker is a way to access help. You will be asked some questions about your symptoms and directed to the most appropriate service.

Common types of eye condition summary

Flashers and floaters

Tiny spots, lines, flashes or shapes in your vision are known as flashes and floaters. Lots of people experience them and they usually aren't cause for alarm. However, in some cases, they can be a sign of something more serious. If you suddenly notice a shower of new floaters, or floaters along with flashes or a dark shadow or a ‘curtain’ in your vision, you should take urgent action. Click here to find out more about what causes flashes and floaters and changes to look out for.


A cataract is the clouding of the lens in your eye. Developing cataracts will cause your sight to become cloudy and misty. This resource provides an overview of what cataracts are, how your eye works, the symptoms of cataracts and information about treatment and recovery.

Age-related macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects a tiny part of the retina at the back of your eye, called the macula. AMD causes changes to the macula, which leads to problems with your central vision. This leaflet provides an overview of AMD and the different types, a list of symptoms and information on diagnosis and treatment.


Glaucoma is an eye condition where your optic nerve is damaged by the pressure of the fluid inside your eye. There are different types of glaucoma. Click here to find out more about the different types of glaucoma along with their respective symptoms, the risk factors for glaucoma and information on the treatments available.

Diabetic Eye Disease or Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes, caused by high blood sugar levels damaging the back of the eye (retina). The NHS website provides information on how diabetes can affect the eyes, symptoms of diabetic retinopathy and ways to reduce your risk and manage your diabetes.

Dry eyes

Dry eye is an eye condition caused by a problem with tears. Dry eye can make your eye feel uncomfortable, red, scratchy and irritated. Dry eye can usually be managed at home or advice can be sought from a pharmacist. You should see an optician or GP if you still have dry eyes after trying home treatments or if there is any change in the shape of your eyelid.  This resource provides an overview of dry eye, a list of symptoms and how to self-manage the condition at home.

Red eye

Red eyes may look alarming but they’re most likely to be caused by a minor eye condition. If a red eye is accompanied with reduced vision/ light sensitivity/ severe headaches and/or nausea it could be something more serious and could threaten your sight if not managed appropriately. Contact your optician or GP immediately if you experience any of these symptoms alongside a red eye. Click here to learn more about red eye.

Some of the common causes of red eye are also listed below with more in-depth information about the conditions.


Conjunctivitis can make your eyes look red, feel gritty and be watery or sticky. It’s sometimes called pink eye. The NHS website provides information about the types of conjunctivitis, the symptoms, how to manage it at home and when you should see a doctor.

Corneal abrasion

A corneal abrasion is a scratch or a graze on the clear front surface of the eye (or the cornea).

It is usually caused by a fingernail or another object catching the eye. This website provides information on what to do if you have a corneal abrasion.


A chalazion is a small lump, or cyst, that develops slowly in the eyelid. It can sometimes look alarming, but it’s usually painless and rarely requires treatment.  This link provides information on how to self manage a chalazion and symptoms to look out for that may require you to see a doctor.

Tables with guides for specific eye conditions: Who to go to with the different eye conditions?

Pharmacist and/or self-care and/or over the counter treatment (OTC)

  • Red eyelid lump (chalazion)
  • Conjunctivitis (redness of the white of your eye, a discharge, blurry vision caused by the discharge, a gritty feeling in the eye) – see patient information leaflet
  • Burst blood vessel
  • Dry eyes (the pharmacy can offer eye drops) – See patient information leaflet
  • Stye – (the pharmacy can offer self-care advice or if infected Chloramphenicol eye drops)
  • Blepharitis  - (treatments such as wipes are available from the pharmacy)
  • Tired/ red eyes

Routine sight test with an Optician

Suitable if you notice a gradual change in vision or issues that might be resolved by prescribing glasses or changing an existing prescription.  Symptoms might include:

  • Noticing that vision seems fuzzy or blurry
  • Difficulty seeing detail (distance or near)
  • Symptoms of headaches or eyestrain
  • Intermittent double vision. It is also used for routine vision testing. 
  • Noticing your sight is getting gradually worse over time 
  • Noticing that it is harder to see detail, such as small print
  • Achy eyes 
  • Gradual occurrence of blurring or distortion of vision


  • For non emergency eye conditions, in the first instance you should visit an Optician either via a routine sight test or the Minor Eye Conditions Service (MECS). 
  • Contact your GP if you are told your eye condition may be the result of a new or worsening underlying condition such as diabetes, hypertension or migraine.

Minor Eye Conditions (MECS) available from 1 July 2021

Suitable for new and or sudden-onset problems with the eyes or vision, and things that seem unlikely to be resolved by prescribing or changing glasses.  This could include symptoms such as:

  • Sight is misty and cloudy
  • Your vision has a small blurred area in the centre
  • Straight lines look distorted or wavy, or like there’s a little bump in them
  • Becoming more sensitive to bright light
  • Seeing rainbow coloured rings around white lights
  • Flashers or floaters that have been occurring for a while
  • Suddenly occurring blurring or distortion of vision

And/or one of the following conditions:

Sudden onset loss of vision including transient loss where it doesn’t relate to a cause or condition listed in the red Emergency Department box - Sudden vision loss

Ocular pain - Pain felt either on the eyes surface or within the eye

Differential diagnosis of red eye - The white of the eyes becomes reddened or bloodshot

Foreign body and emergency contact lens removal - Something is stuck in the eye

Dry eye - Occurs when the eyes do not make enough tears, which leave the eyes feeling gritty, itchy and sore

Blepharitis - Eyelids become red and swollen

Epiphora - Excessive watering of the eye, also known as 'Watery eyes'

Trichiasis - Eyelashes grow inwards towards the eye, which can cause irritation

Differential diagnosis of lumps and bumps in the vicinity of the eye - Usually a Stye or Chalazion, appearing as a small eyelid bump

Flashes/floaters - Both appear in the field of vision. Floaters look like small specks, dots, circles, line or cobwebs and Flashers can look like flashing lights or lightning streaks.

Patient reported sudden onset field defects - Sudden appearance of a blind spot in the normal field of vision

Sudden onset double vision - Two images of a single object are suddenly observed for some or all of the time


Emergency Department (only for emergencies)

  • Injury, trauma or chemical splash to the eye
  • Globe injury, penetrating or blunt (especially with a protruding eyeball and haemorrhage around the eye), open or closed
  • Sudden or dramatic vision loss/ total vision loss
  • Severe photophobia
  • Eyelid so swollen the eye cannot be seen at all
  • Severe, excruciating pain, especially if you also have a headache/nausea and reduced vision or sensitivity to light
  • Contact lens wearer with red eye/ severe pain/ reduced vision
  • Painful eye with droopy eyelid/ double vision/ abnormal pupil
  • Severe pain or loss of vision after surgery or injection
  • Sudden onset of double vision
  • Eye complaints effecting patients with the use of only one eye (if blind in one eye, etc.)
  • Eye complaints that are a result of a head injury
  • Eye complaints that present with other neurological symptoms (stroke-like symptoms)
  • Eye complaints in diabetic patients
  • Eye complaints that affect both eyes