People are wearing glasses with the wrong prescription as they struggle to pay for new spectacles amid the cost-of-living crisis, experts have warned.
A survey of 876 optometrists found seven in 10 had seen a patient in the last three months who needed vision correction but took no action because they could not afford to.
Optometrists said people are risking long-term sight damage.
The Association of Optometrists (AOP) also conducted a new poll among British adults and found 62% who wear glasses or contact lenses say they are currently “putting off” paying for suitable vision correction due to the crisis.
The poll of 1,000 UK adults found 36% are wearing out-of-date prescriptions and a fifth (19%) use glasses they have had to fix themselves.
One of the survey respondents told the AOP: “Although my sight is very important, so is feeding my children.”
Another said: “At the moment, I have a pair of reading glasses from the pound shop because I don’t have any spare money to get an eye test and new glasses.
“And I know that they are not correct for my vision and I have to strain my eyes to read properly.”
People described struggling with eye strain and headaches but being unable to afford an eye test.
The AOP said a simple measure to improve the nation’s eye health would be to improve the offer of the NHS optical voucher scheme.
Adam Sampson, chief executive of the Association of Optometrists, said: “It’s of deep concern that people are being forced to make decent vision an optional extra.
“The stories to come out of this research are truly shocking and it’s imperative that action is taken now to minimise the long-term damage to people’s eyesight.
“Help is available to those who need it but the NHS optical voucher is out of step with inflation – and like many essentials, people are being forced to go without.
“A simple yet effective way of ensuring people get the vital eye health checks they need and we don’t hit an eye health crisis later down the line is increasing the NHS voucher now to help people offset against rising costs.
“Doing nothing quite literally risks the vision of the nation and may end up costing much more.”