Eyeglasses and Contact Lenses
Lenses for correcting or improving vision
There are two types of lenses prescribed for correcting or improving vision. These
Eyeglasses (also called spectacles). Eyeglasses, the most common form of eyewear used
to correct or improve many types of vision problems, are a frame that holds two pieces
of glass or plastic. These have been ground into lenses to correct refractive errors.
Refractive errors can include nearsightedness or myopia (difficulty seeing far away),
farsightedness or hyperopia (difficulty seeing close up), and astigmatism (blurring
due to an irregularly shaped cornea). Eyeglasses perform this function by adding or
subtracting focusing power to the eye's 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 perform this function by adding
or subtracting focusing power to the eye's cornea and lens.
How to read an eyeglass prescription
The lens power of eyeglasses is measured in diopters. This measurement reflects the
amount of power necessary to focus images directly onto the retina. When looking at
an eyeglasses prescription, you will see the following abbreviations:
O.D. Oculus dextrous simply refers to the right eye (sometimes the abbreviation RE
O.S. Oculus sinister refers to the left eye (sometimes the abbreviation LE is used).
In addition, the eyeglass prescription may also contain the following measurements.
This number measurement shows the extent of the nearsightedness or farsightedness.
This number measurement refers to the amount of astigmatism in the eye. Astigmatism
is an irregularly shaped cornea that causes blurring.
This number measurement describes the astigmatism in degrees from the horizontal axis.
Most left and right eyes have a similar axis of astigmatism.
Bifocal prescriptions usually have an additional measurement listed on the prescription
as add to indicate the strength of the lens. Bifocals are used to correct both nearsightedness
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
(myopia), the numerical prescription in diopters is always marked with a minus (-)
Convex lenses. These are thickest in the center, like a magnifying glass. They are
used to correct farsightedness (hyperopia), 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 four types of contact lenses in use:
The soft, water-absorbing lens
The rigid, gas-permeable lens
Other rigid lenses
Other flexible, nonwater 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 healthcare provider will determine if the
eyes are too dry for contact lenses. Also, if there are any corneal problems that
may prevent a person from wearing contact lenses. Trial lenses are usually tested
on the eyes for a period of time to make sure of proper fit.
The contact lens prescription usually includes the following information:
Eye care specialists are required by federal law to give you a copy of your contact