The survey, conducted by the Association of Optometrists (AOP), found that two-thirds of people who wear glasses or contact lenses are “putting off” paying for vision correction.
The AOP warned that 22 million people in the UK could be forced to struggle with poor vision as the price of energy and food soars.
Respondents to the survey said they had been struggling with eye focus for months but cannot afford new glasses, while others said that it had become harder to buy contact lenses as “buying food for the family is more important”.
Many said it had become more difficult to undertake everyday activities such as driving, doing their job and watching TV as a result of their worsening eyesight.
The AOP research suggests that 36 per cent of people across all ages are wearing out of date prescriptions and 19 per cent use glasses they have had to self-repair.
Adam Sampson, chief executive of the AOP, 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.”
The NHS optical voucher scheme, which offers a discount on prescriptions of between £39.90 and £219 depending on the strength required, is currently only available to specific groups such as under-16s or those who qualify for means-tested benefits.
Mr Sampson added: “A simple yet effective way of ensuring people get the vital eye health checks they need so we don’t hit an eye health crisis later down the line is to increase 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.”
Scotland is the only nation in the UK to provide free universal NHS funded eye examinations. An eye test can cost between £20 and £30 and the NHS recommends having a routine eye test every two years.
Without regular eye tests, conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts can go undetected for longer and lead to irreversible sight loss if left untreated.
The average person in the UK buys 26 pairs of glasses in their lifetime at a typical cost of £120 a pair, according to Optometry Today.
The AOP surveyed 1,002 people in the UK who require vision correction, believe they require vision correction or have a family member who requires vision correction.