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Understanding Common Terminology Used In Optometry

Just like any other medical profession, the field of optometry is full of long medical terms. Many words in optometry, have their root in latin and can sometimes be hard to spell and pronounce. There are many people who require vision correction, more mainstream words have been created to be used synonymously with the proper medical names. These words are both easier to remember and pronounce then their medical counterparts. Here are some common optical terms that you may hear during your next visit to the optometrist’s office.


Optometry is the science of practicing the profession of examining the vision and health of the eyes. This is done with the use of specialized instruments that helps identify vision defects and eye disorders and diseases. These instruments also aid the optometrist in prescribing suitable corrective lenses and other appropriate treatment to correct vision and eye problems. 


Myopia, is a very common vision condition in optometry. It is a refractive error in vision, that makes distance vision blurry. A minus power lens is needed to correct this type of vision disorder. If a person has myopia, they may also say that they are myopic, or more commonly, use the term nearsighted – as they see better up close then at a distance.


Hyperopia, is another very common optometry vision condition. Hyperopia, is a refractive error in vision, that makes objects up close blurry. A plus lens is needed to correct this type of vision disorder. If a person has hyperopia, they may also say that they are hyperopic, or more commonly, use the term farsighted – as they see things better at a distance then they do up close.


Astigmatism occurs when the eye, cornea, or lens within the eye, are not completely round. They are more shaped like an egg or football. Because of the non-spherical shape, when light enters the eye, it does not focus in one sharp point, but instead many points. Because of this, people with astigmatism will often see images as slightly blurry.


Presbyopia is when the elasticity of the eye muscles start to become more rigid. This results in loss of the eyes ability to focus up close. It is a natural part of the eye aging process. Presbyopia usually is more noticeable as we enter our 40s. It continues to gradually worsen until around the age of 65. At this point the eye usually has lost the majority of it’s ability to accommodate.

When most people start to notice that they are becoming presbyopic, they feel that they need brighter light to see smaller print, that they normally could see in the past. Patients will also start to hold their reading material further away to be able to see it.

When a person becomes presbyopic, bifocals or multifocal progressive lenses or reading glasses will be prescribed by the optometrist to bring everything back into focus at a comfortable distance.


A cataract is a clouding over of the crystalline lens in the eye. This cloudiness prevents light from passing through to the back to the eye, the retina. This clouding can impair your vision. Cataracts are a natural aging process of the eye. In some cases, cataracts remain small and cause no problems. Other cataracts grow and cause problems, which eventually require removal. Some patients describe cataracts as looking through a fog.


Glaucoma is an increase in pressure in the eye. The higher then normal eye pressure, causes damage to the optic nerve, which is located at the back of the eye. There are a couple of different types of glaucoma. But the most common form of glaucoma, has no warning signs. The effect is so gradual that you may not notice change in vision until the condition is in its advanced stages. Glaucoma is a real problem in optometry, is is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States.

Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD)

Patients with macular degeneration usually develop the disease in their middle ages, that is why it is often referred to as “age related macular degeneration” or “ARMD” for short. ARMD is a disease that blurs the sharp central vision. It affects the part of the eye that allows you to see fine details and causes blurring of the central vision. Risk factors include smoking, family history, genetics, and gender. There are two different types of macular degeneration that people may suffer from, wet and dry forms.

Wet Macular Degeneration

Wet macular degeneration is when abnormal blood vessels behind the retina start to grow under the macula. These new blood vessels are fragile and often leak blood and fluid. The blood and fluid raise the macula from it’s normal position at the back of the eye, which results in vision problems and vision loss.

Dry Macular Degeneration

Dry macular degeneration occurs when the light sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down, causing the gradual blurring of central vision. Dry macular degeneration in the most common eye disorder among people aged 65 and older. It causes blurred or reduced central vision, due to the thinning of the macula.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy, occurs in people with diabetes. It is a complication that occurs when diabetes damage the tiny blood vessels inside the retina, causing haemorrhaging. It can eventually lead to blindness. In optometry, optometrists often see diabetic retinopathy as an ocular manifestation of a patients diabetes. It is because of this complication, that diabetics are recommended to have routine annual eye exams.

Optic Nerve

The optic nerve is a bundle of nerve fibres. It is the pathway that connects the retina to the brain and carries the impulse formed by the retina. The nerve layers that line the back of the eye, sense light and then creates impulses. These impulses are sent through the optic nerve to the visual cortex of the brain. The brain interprets these impulses as objects and images.

Conjunctivitis or Pink Eye

Conjunctivitis, is also known as “pink eye”. It is a redness and swelling of the tissue lining the eyelids and white part of the eye. There are many different types of conjunctivitis.


Floaters are caused by changes in the eye as we age. As we get older the virtuous in the eye (jelly-like substance) becomes more liquid. As this happens, microscopic fibres within the vitreous can clump together and as a result, cast tiny shadows on your retina (back of the eye). These shadows, appear as floaters.

Strabismus or Lazy Eye

Strabismus or lazy eye,  is an eye condition that causes misalignment of the eyes. Strabismus can be inward, or outward, there are many different type of strabismus.



Article Written By: Karen McAulay



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