Eyeglasses and Contact Lenses
Lenses for correcting or improving vision
There are 2 types of lenses prescribed for correcting or improving vision. These include:
Eyeglasses. These are the most common form of eyewear used to correct or improve many types of
vision problems. Eyeglasses are a frame that holds 2 pieces of glass or plastic. These
have been ground into lenses to correct refractive errors. Refractive errors can include
difficulty seeing far away (nearsightedness or myopia), difficulty seeing close up
(farsightedness or hyperopia), and blurring due to an unevenly shaped cornea (astigmatism).
Eyeglasses do this by adding or subtracting focusing power to the cornea and lens.
Contact lenses. Contact lenses are worn directly on the cornea of the eye. Like eyeglasses, contact
lenses help to correct refractive errors. They do this by adding or subtracting focusing
power to the cornea and lens.
How to read an eyeglass prescription
The lens power of eyeglasses is measured in diopters. This measurement shows the amount
of power needed to focus images directly onto the retina. When looking at an eyeglasses
prescription, you will see the following abbreviations:
O.D. Oculus dextrus means the right eye (sometimes the abbreviation RE is used).
O.S. Oculus sinister means the left eye (sometimes the abbreviation LE is used).
In addition, the eyeglass prescription may also have the following measurements.
This number shows the extent of the nearsightedness or farsightedness.
This number means the amount of astigmatism in the eye. Astigmatism is an unevenly
shaped cornea that causes blurring.
This number describes the astigmatism in degrees from the horizontal axis. Most left
and right eyes have a similar axis of astigmatism.
Bifocal prescriptions often have an additional measurement listed on the prescription
as "add" to show the strength of the lens for near vision. Bifocals are used to correct
both nearsightedness and farsightedness.
What are the different types of eyeglass lenses?
The type of lenses used in eyeglasses depends on the type of vision problem and may
Concave lenses. These are thinnest in the center. They are used to correct nearsightedness. The numerical
prescription in diopters is always marked with a minus (-) symbol.
Convex lenses. These are thickest in the center. They are used to correct farsightedness. The numerical
prescription in diopters is always marked with a plus (+) symbol.
Cylindrical lenses. These curve more in one direction than in the other and are used to correct astigmatism.
Facts about contact lenses
Over 30 million Americans wear contact lenses, 80% of whom wear daily wear soft lenses.
Currently, there are 4 types of contact lenses:
The soft, water-absorbing lens
The rigid, gas-permeable lens
Other rigid lenses
Other flexible, non-water-absorbing lenses
Reading a contact lens prescription
The prescription for contact lenses includes more information than what is available
on the prescription for eyeglasses. Special measurements will need to be taken of
the curvature of the eye. In addition, the eye care provider will determine if the
eyes are too dry for contact lenses or if there are any corneal problems that may
prevent a person from wearing contact lenses. Trial lenses are often worn for a period
of time to make sure they fit correctly.
The contact lens prescription often includes this information:
Eye care providers are required by federal law to give you a copy of your contact