How Do I Read an Eyeglasses Prescription? Here’s What You Need to Know

If you’ve just received your first eyeglasses prescription you’re probably unfamiliar with the ciphers and terminology. In fact – you don’t understand a thing! Never fear – here’s a primer on vision prescriptions, which will help you better understand your eye health.

What do the notations mean?

The standard notations for visual acuity seem confusing, but they’re pretty straightforward once they’re translated. Here’s what you need to know.

Eyeglass prescriptions are generally transcribed on a graph. The abbreviations on the right-hand side are:

  • O.D. This abbreviation stands for oculus dexter, which is Latin for right eye.
  • O.S. This abbreviation stands for oculus sinister, which is Latin for left eye.
  • O.U. This abbreviation stands for oculus uterque, which is Latin for both eyes.

While these are the standard notations, many optometrists are now using the more accessible R.E., L.E., and O.E. (right eye, left eye, both eyes).

Along the top of the graph are terms relating to the condition of your vision. These terms are:

  • Sphere: This term relates to the prescribed strength of the corrective lenses needed to address either myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness).
  • Cylinder: This term is designated for the correction of astigmatism. If this section is blank, it means that patient either does not have astigmatism, or that it is so minor that it does not affect the patient’s vision.
  • Axis: For patients with astigmatism, this category notes the angle and direction of the corneal or lens curvature.
  • ADD: This space indicates that a bifocal or multifocal prescription is recommended.

What do the numbers mean?

Under the terms at the top of the chart are numbers which describe the strength of the required vision correction. The higher the number, the more intensive the necessary correction.

There will also be plus or minus signs alongside the numbers. A plus sign indicates farsightedness; a minus sign indicates nearsightedness.

What about the other stuff?

Your optometrist will often provide special instructions for the fabrication of your corrective lenses. These instructions are meant to provide the most comfortable correction and suit your lifestyle. For example, your eye care specialist may specify variable tint lenses or anti-glare coating.

Can my eyeglasses prescription be used for contact lenses?

Eyeglass prescriptions cannot be used interchangeably with contact lens prescriptions because eyeglass prescriptions lack details that can only be gathered from a contact lens fitting. The lens has to fit the unique curve of the eye, and the corrective power is different, since contact lenses sit directly upon the eye, while eyeglasses sit approximately 12 millimeters away from the eye.

Your eyeglass prescription is your property. It must be given to you whether you specifically request it or not, or whether or not you choose to have your prescription filled by the eye care center where you had your exam. You have the right to use your prescription at any eyewear retailer you wish.

It is advisable to have an eye exam every year to ensure your lenses are always providing the appropriate level of correction.

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OptiExpress offers comprehensive eye exams and a one-hour onsite lab, so you can have your prescription eyewear before your lunch hour ends. With excellent deals on designer eyewear and contact lenses, we are Fort Meyers’s and Cape Coral’s go-to eye care specialist. Come to our family-friendly eye care center for a complete eye exam today!

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