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 ophthalmologist 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. 

Fun fact: If you have astigmatism, your prescription glasses will have specific astigmatism correction that is unlike the corrective lenses you’d get for simple nearsightedness or farsightedness.


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 doesn’t have to do with your ability to mentally focus, but it does have something to do with how your eyes focus. 

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 (also known as myopia) or farsighted (known as hyperopia). 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. This measurement is really important for making sure your pair of glasses effectively corrects your vision.

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.

Being farsighted is very common, especially if you are over age 35. Presbyopia is the term given to age-related vision decline that usually makes you more farsighted in middle age. It happens to everyone. In fact, most eye doctors agree that three things are guaranteed in life: death, taxes, and presbyopia. 

  • 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. Nearsightedness is one of the most common vision correction issues that prescription eyewear can correct.

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 (aka magnifying power) 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 the way bifocals do. 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.

The Specs On Stoggles

We don’t like to toot our own horn, but our eyewear is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. Every pair of Stoggles we create comes standard with protective features like:

  • ANSI Z87.1-2020 certification. This label lets you know your eyewear is shatter resistant against high-velocity impacts. Stray rock from your lawn mower or nail from a nail gun? Not today, vile villains! 
  • Fog-resistant lenses. Everyone could use a little more patience, but dealing with eyeglass lenses that fog isn’t putting you on the fast track to Zen Land. Stoggles are made with a revolutionary and proprietary formula that we think is the best on the market.
  • Side and top shields. Proper eye care involves all-around protection, and your regular eyeglasses or sunglasses leave your eyes vulnerable near your eyebrows and on your temples. Top and side shields protect these areas with a low-profile, streamlined design that doesn’t give “science lab” vibes.
  • UV and blue light protection. Keeping your eyes safe from intrusive light is so important. Both UV light and blue light can penetrate the cornea and reach the retina, where your vision cells are located. Stoggles eyewear protects against both types of light so you can keep your vision safe.

We don’t skimp on safety, and we also don’t skimp on style. Our Stoggles are available in unexpected frame shapes, like cat-eye and aviator, and in a plethora of colors so you can customize your eyewear however you like. 

If you need polarized lenses, or photochromic lenses, we’ve still got you covered. In fact, we even offer readers, which give you the same vision correction you'd get in a pair of reading glasses. Grab that eyeglass prescription and head over to our website, where you can upload it easily and get the lenses you need with the protection you want and the style you love. 

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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