Sight tests and eye health
You may be able to get free healthcare, eye tests, and glasses:
- If you have a medical card
- Under the Treatment Benefit Scheme if you have enough PRSI contributions
- If you are living with Hepatitis C and have a Health Amendment Act Card
Children can get free eye tests and treatment under pre-school developmental checks. School health services also do testing and refer children for free treatment.
Eye healthcare services in Ireland is provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE) or by private practitioners.
Eye health professionals include optometrists, dispensing opticians and ophthalmologists. You can read more about these healthcare professionals below.
Free eye tests with the medical card
If you have a medical card, you can get a free eye examination every 2 years from the HSE. If you need glasses or spectacles, you can get free standard spectacles.
If you have a medical condition that means you need an eye exam more often than every two years, these eye exams are also free.
You must apply to your Local Health Office for all eye exams and dispensing.
Eye tests covered by the Treatment Benefit Scheme
If you do not qualify for free optical services from the HSE, the Treatment Benefit Scheme may cover you and your dependent spouse or partner for certain free optical services.
The scheme is based on your social insurance (PRSI) contributions. If you do not have enough PRSI contributions, you may have to pay for the eye tests.
This scheme is run by the Department of Social Protection (DSP) and is also called the Optical Benefit Scheme. The DSP has a list of available opticians under the Treatment Benefits Scheme.
Eye tests and glasses for children
For your baby after birth
Your child’s eyes will be tested soon after they are born. If your baby was born in a hospital, this test is done before you bring your baby home. If there are any problems with your baby's eyes, they will be referred to an eye specialist for treatment.
At your child's developmental assessments
Your public health nurse will test your child's eyes during their child developmental assessments. Your child will continue these assessments in junior infant class at primary school, until they are aged 6.
Eye examinations for older children
If your child has sight problems at the school health service tests they may be referred to an eye specialist for treatment.
If your child has a medical card this will cover the cost of treating any eye problems found after they leave primary school.
If your child is under 16 and they are treated at the outpatient department of a public hospital, you do not have to pay any hospital charges.
How much does an eye test cost?
If you are not eligible for a free eye test, you may need to pay for your eyes to be tested. You can contact a private optician to ask how much a sight test and eye examination costs.
Tax relief on medical expenses
You may be able to claim tax relief for medical expenses on some eye health treatments. These optical treatments must be prescribed by an eye healthcare professional. You can read more about taxation and medical expenses.
Diabetic Retina Screen
If you have diabetes and are aged 12 or over, you can get a free, regular screening for diabetic retinopathy from the National Diabetic Retinal Screening Programme. Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that can damage eyesight.
Eye health professionals explained
An Optometrist examine your eyes to test for vision problems. They use instruments to examine eye health and to test your visual acuity, depth and colour perception and your ability to focus and co-ordinate your eyes. Optometrists can also prescribe spectacles and contact lenses.
A Dispensing Optician cannot prescribe prescription spectacles or contact lenses for you but they can advise you on glasses frames, lenses and contact lenses for your prescription and your lifestyle.
An Ophthalmologist is a doctor who can perform eye surgery, diagnose and treat eye diseases and injuries. Ophthalmologists can also examine eyes and prescribe glasses and contact lenses.
Making a complaint about an eye care professional
If you want to make a complaint about a practitioner, you should contact the regulatory body that they are registered with. Practising optometrists and dispensing opticians must be registered with the Optical Registration Board at CORU, the regulator for health and social care professionals. Ophthalmologists must be registered with the Irish Medical Council.