Sight tests and eye health


You may be able to get free healthcare for your eyes from the Health Service Executive (HSE). Eye health professionals include optometrists, dispensing opticians and ophthalmologists. You can read more about these healthcare professionals below.

Eye healthcare services in Ireland may be provided by HSE staff or by private practitioners.

Do I qualify for a free eye test in Ireland?

You can get a free eye examination and the standard glasses or spectacles you need every two years from the HSE if you are:

If you need a free eye examination more often than once every two years because of a medical condition, this will be covered.

All examinations and dispensing require approval from your Local Health Office.

Eye tests covered by the Treatment Benefit Scheme

If you can’t get free optical services, the Treatment Benefit Scheme may cover you and your dependent spouse or partner for certain free optical services. The scheme uses your social insurance (PRSI) contributions. If you do not have enough PRSI contributions, you may have to pay for these services.

Children's free eye care

Your child’s eyes will be tested soon after they are born. If your baby was born in a hospital, it will happen before you bring your baby home. Your public health nurse will test your child's eyes during these child developmental assessments and when your child is in junior infant class at primary school.

Your child may be referred from child health service and school health service examinations. If your child has sight problems at this stage they may be referred to a consultant for treatment.

If your child is under 16 and has any healthcare at the out-patient department of a public hospital, you will not have to pay any hospital charges.

You can read more about your child’s eye health and development of their eyes.

How much does an eye test cost?

If you are not eligible for a free eye test, or the Treatment Benefit Scheme 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.

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.

How to get eye care or a sight test

If you have a medical card, you should apply to your Local Health Office for an eye examination. The Department of Social Protection (DSP) has a list of available opticians under the Treatment Benefits Scheme.

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 having considered 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.

Eye health organisations

Irish Association of Dispensing Opticians

PO Box 9013
15 Upper Baggot Street
Dublin 4

Tel: (01) 453 8700

Medical Council

Kingram House
Kingram Place
Dublin 2
D02 XY88

Tel: +353 (0)1 498 3100

Page edited: 18 November 2022