Reading and Understanding Your Glasses Prescription

In the same way every snowflake is unique, so are our eyes. No one person’s eyes are the same, even twins, unless they’re connected at the eye; in that case, the apocalypse is upon us, good luck.

For the rest of us, our eyes vary in shape, size and color. It’s that same uniqueness that posses a problem when our eyes age and our vision gets worse. That’s why there’s no one size fits all solution to vision care.


If you’re experiencing worsening vision, and let’s be honest who isn’t, then you’re most likely going to need to wear at least one pair of glasses in your life. There’s always laser eye surgery, but we can save that conversation for another time and the reality is most of us can’t afford it anyway. An eye doctor can help identify what kind of vision problems your experiencing, after all they didn’t go through years of training so they couldn’t get their hands on that piece of paper that magically gives them eye fixing power. That’s how it works right?

After your test, the doctor, or optometrist (as they’re officially known), will fill out your “score,” as I like to call it. On the sheet of paper your doctor hands you, you’ll see a chart with some confusing numbers and abbreviations. Don’t worry if you can’t make out what it reads, we’ll walk you through it.

Probably the first thing you’re going to notice is “OD,OS & OU.” – lost already? Relax, those are just Latin abbreviations referring to your eyes. “OD” means your right eye, “OS” means your left and “OU” means both. There’s this obsession doctors have with making things sound difficult, maybe because they like to think they’re better than us, maybe not.

Anyway, now we get down to the real details. Beside them are “DISTANCE” and “ADD.” “DISTANCE” as you’d think, denotes vision distance. The numbers here can be plus or minus depending if you’re nearsighted or farsighted. If the number’s minus, you’re nearsighted. If it’s plus, you’re farsighted. “ADD” simply means magnifying power that’s added to the bottom of the lens and will always a positive number. These numbers will appear under the “SPH” section, meaning sphere. Numbers here will affect the shape of the lens.

The most common mistake we see on an almost daily basis is the wrong selection of “+” and “-” values when entering prescriptions online. We cannot stress enough that extra care must be taken when selecting these values!

Next, you’ll see “CYL, AXIS, PRISM & BASE.”. If this was a game, these guys would be considered bonus round. “CYL” stands for cylinder and is only used if there’s an astigmatic problem in your eyes. The rest get pretty scientific, but have to do with alignment, angling and power.

Now you understand the power of optometry, somewhat, use this knowledge and impress your doctor. Hey, he might even speak to you in Latin.

Ivica (SelectSpecs)

Passionate for online marketing & social media. Also, crazy about the wife`n`kids, music & cooking. Baltazar the Cat & Lily the Dog are always around... :)

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