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How to read a prescription for contacts

how to read a contact lens prescription

Wearing contact lenses are a great alternative to glasses if you want to change up your look or avoid having the frames fall down your nose while playing sports. If you’ve just gotten a new pair of contacts or are considering them, you’ll likely have lots of questions, including how to understand their medical abbreviations that explain your vision. Learn how to read a prescription for contacts below.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by contactlenses4us to help you understand your vision better. 

Why learn how to read a contacts prescription?

Well, if you’re like me then you are a curious cat. So when you get the script at the end of the eye exam or contact fitting (in North America, that’s standard practice), then you’ll naturally at least glance at the paper.

And want to know more. By the way, eyeglasses prescriptions are different than contacts; we’re only dealing with contact lens info here.

Furthermore, knowing more about yourself is cool. I believe that the more you know who you are, the more in tune you feel with your spirit.

And confidence strengthens from there.

But whatever the reason for your curiosity, the question is: How to read my eye prescription?

Meaning of contact script abbreviations

The abbreviations on a prescription that will likely first catch your eye are:

  • OD: It stands for the Latin word for the right eye, Oculus Dexter.
  • OS: This represents the Latin word for the left eye, Oculus Sinister.

They are typically the 2 columns across the top of the eye prescription. On the same sheet from the optomotrist are a series of rows, with numbers at the points where columns and rows intersect.

Those numbers represent your current vision, as summarized by the optical pro who did your eye checkup.

Here’s what the rest of contact abbreviations mean:

  • PWR: Refractive lens power. It is the required lens strength to sharpen your sight, usually to 20/20. Farsighted (Hyperopic) lenses range between +0.05 and +20.00, while Nearsighted (Myopic) lenses range between -20.00 and -0.05. needed to sharpen your vision, usually to 20/20.
  • BC: Base curve. The back curvature of the lens (in mm), which must match the curve of the cornea so the contacts fit the eye properly. The number is usually between 8 and 10.
  • DIA: The diameter. Measured in mm, it refers to the distance across the surface of the lens. It is responsible to decide where the lens sits on a person’s eye and is generally from 13 to 15.
  • AXIS: If you have an astigmatism then it will show here.
  • CYL: Also for astigmatism, Cylinder will show with AXIS.
  • COLOR: Want colored contacts? Blue or another color is shown on this line, if you choose this option.
  • Brand: In the US, the contacts prescription will show a brand. You may also see a type of lens there that the doctor has fit you for during the exam.

Bifocal or Multifocal Lens?

By now, you may have another question: How to read my eye prescription for bifocal or multifocal contact lenses?

Aha, with these types of contacts, these are additional descriptors written on the prescription by the optometrist.

These abbreviations are:

  • D: Dominant. A dominant eye (represented as D) and a non-dominant eye (represented as N) determine the lens correction.
  • ADD: This means Add Power or magnifying strength.

Things to keep in mind

It’s important to note that the prescription can vary depending what’s common practice in your country. If in doubt, always ask your eye professional.

Also, there are many convenient places to get contact lenses online, such as contactlenses4us. Make sure to practice safe handling of your contacts, as per your eyecare pro.

Furthermore, an eye prescription for disposable contact lenses might include how often to toss the old ones and start fresh. They could be one-time use or “daily,” for example.

Final words on how to read a prescription for contacts

When it comes to buying contact lenses, getting an eye checkup and a prescription from an optician may sound tedious. However, the result is totally worth it. When fit correctly by the expert, these lenses enable you to see clearly the world in all its beauty.

4 thoughts on “How to read a prescription for contacts”

  1. I’m none the wiser 😆

    I’ve just got myself contact lenses again so I did wonder what the gibberish words & numbers meant.
    Clarification sorted.

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