Here's How To Read Your Eye Prescription and Impress Your Optometrists

Posted by Paul Kim on

Tired of looking a bit bewildered when your optometrist hands over your script? It never has to happen again. After this quick tutorial, you’ll know so much about your corrective lens prescription your doc will think you’re after their job. 

The Eye Prescription Bingo Card

A corrective lens prescription looks similar to a bingo card. There will typically be a grid of boxes, with letters across the top and some letters and abbreviations on the side. Normally, there will be two rows of boxes, and your doctor will write a series of numbers in them. 

If your doctor uses electronic prescriptions, it’s a great idea to ask for a copy for your records. If you need to grab a pair of drugstore cheaters in a pinch, having your script can help you know which corrective lenses will work best. 

The TLA’s of Your Eye Rx

We love three-letter acronyms (TLA’s) as much as the next person, but your eye prescription is loaded with them (along with some double letter acronyms as well). You can’t make sense of your prescription until you’re able to crack the code. Lucky for you, we’ve got the Cliff notes.

Here is the not-so-secret code:


This stands for “sphere” and tells your lens crafter the specific power of the lens needed to correct your eyesight.


The axis is a measurement of astigmatism. Astigmatism refers to an irregularly shaped cornea (one that is shaped more like a football than a soccer ball). The axis number indicates the degree of your astigmatism and its location. 


This abbreviation stands for cylinder and denotes the amount of astigmatism in your eye. Together with the axis, the cylinder tells your lens crafter the strength of the lens needed to correct your vision. 


Prismatic glasses are used to correct double vision caused by misalignment of the eyes. Only a very small percentage of people will need prismatic lenses, so this box might be left empty on your prescription. 


If you have prismatic glasses, you’ll see an abbreviation of either BO, BI, BU, or BD. These stand for base out, base in, base up, or base down. This tells the lens crafter where to position the prism in your glasses to correct your double vision. 


This column will be empty unless you need “additional” lens power to help you see close-up (like when you’re reading). ADD is often found on progressive lens prescriptions because it shows the strength needed on the lower portion of the lens.


This measurement will appear on your script if you plan to wear contact lenses. It stands for “diameter” and measures the distance from one side of the lens to the other. 

DV and NV

These abbreviations stand for distance vision and near vision. The number that accompanies “DV” will indicate whether you are nearsighted or farsighted (more on that below). 

If your prescription has an NV number, it means your lenses are only to be worn for close-up activities, like reading. 


These abbreviations refer to one or both of your eyes. OD stands for “oculus dexter,” or the right eye. OU means oculus uterque (both eyes). OS stands for oculus sinister, or the left eye only. 

Some prescriptions may have different strengths for each eye, and this will be indicated by these abbreviations. 


This stands for pupillary distance. There are two measurements for pupillary distance: monocular, which measures the distance from your pupil to the bridge of your nose, and binocular, which measures the distance from one pupil to the other. 

It’s a lot of info to remember, but we’re confident if you jot a few notes in the palm of your hand, you’ll sound like a vision wiz at your next appointment. 

Who’s Got the High Score? Understanding Numbers

Back to the bingo boxes. If you look on the grid, you’ll see numbers with + and - signs beside them. These numbers indicate lens strength, and it’s how your lens manufacturer will create custom glasses that perfectly correct your vision. 

  • Pluses- When you see a number on your script with a plus to the left of it, it means you have farsighted vision. Sometimes, prescriptions for farsighted vision will not have a plus sign. 

    Being farsighted means you can easily see objects in the distance but have trouble seeing objects that are close up, like the text on your phone or in your book. The higher the number on your script, the stronger your prescription. If you have a script for +3.50, it is stronger than a script for +2.00.
  • Minuses- If your prescription number has a preceding minus sign, it means you are nearsighted.

    Nearsightedness means objects close to you are easy for you to see, but objects in the distance are blurry.

    The same rule applies for nearsighted corrective lenses as farsighted corrective lenses; the higher the number, the stronger the lens.

What Is a Diopter?

You probably won’t see this word on your prescription, but dropping this term on your optometrist is sure to get you bonus points. A diopter is the optical power of a lens. It’s the basic measure of how much strength is needed to correct your vision. 

Extra Credit

Now that you know the basics of your eye prescription, it’s time to show your doc just how brilliant you are by interpreting the prescription notes. The notes section of your script is where your optometrist will indicate whether you need any specialized coatings or whether you’ll need progressive lenses. 

  • Progressive lenses. Progressive lenses allow your glasses to work on three different levels: close-up, middle distance, and long-distance. They’re the newer, updated version of bifocals, and progressive lenses no longer have a line across the lens. If you need progressive lenses, your doc will indicate it in the notes. 
  • Blue-Light. While anti-glare lenses might be effective in front of a computer screen, blue-light lenses are in a whole other playing field. Part of why many find working at a computer all day to be so exhausting is due to the blue light that it emits, which can lead to headaches and discomfort. Blue-light blocking lenses can be particularly useful in this case. 
  • Photochromic. If you request photochromic lenses, you won’t need a separate pair of prescription sunglasses. These lenses darken and lighten depending on the amount of sunlight around you (this is usually in the form of UV rays). 
  • Safety goggles. If you need protective glasses for your job or for working around your home, your doctor may indicate so in the notes section of your prescription. Safety goggles differ from scratch-resistant lenses. They’re sturdier and offer a much higher level of protection. 

Using Your New Skills

You’ve got the prescription reading skills; now it's time to use them. If you need safety glasses, there’s only one place to take your script. Stoggles are the spectacles that wear like glasses, protect like safety goggles, and look like your favorite pair of frames. 

At Stoggles, we handle your prescription in-house, saving you time and money. You still get access to all the same stylish safety frames we offer in our non-corrective glasses, but with the same correction that you enjoy in your regular eyeglasses. 

No more shoving goggles over your eyeglasses or feeling less than fabulous in your PPE. With Stoggles, you never have to sacrifice style for protection. You can be safe and stylish without compromise.

Be an Eye Prescription Know It All

At your next eye exam, wow your optometrist with your knowledge of all things prescription lenses. And let your doctor know you plan to shop with Stoggles, the stylish and protective eyeglasses that keep you looking as smart as you are. 



What Is Astigmatism?| 

What Is Prism Correction in Eyeglasses?| 

Pupillary distance (PD)|All About

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