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Common Vision Terms Explained

Vision terms can sound like someone is speaking another language. For example, you might have heard someone throw around facts, such as they are farsighted or their vision is 20/20. But what exactly do those optometry terms mean? There are lots of optometry terms that many people might not know exactly what they mean. However, it’s good to be educated about them because they might help you understand your vision and eyes better! Read our blog article this week to learn exactly what some of the more common vision terms mean!

It happens quite frequently that a person will tell us that their vision is “20/20”. But truth is, the majority of people don’t understand what 20/20 is. Or what most common vision terms really mean! Well, we think that knowledge is key! Knowing and understanding more about your vision and eye health plays an important part in knowing how to maintain and keep your eyes healthy!

Common Vision Terms Explained

Here’s a list of some common optometry terms that you may hear during your eye exam or have heard friends or family mention when talking about vision and eye health.

20/20 Vision

20/20 vision is one of the more popular vision terms. It is a way of measuring a person’s visual acuity. The term 20/20 refers to what most people would see when standing 20 feet away from the eye chart. The first number refers to the distance in feet from the chart. The second number refers to how close or far away from the chart (again in feet) at which you have to stand to see the chart. So a person can actually see better then 20/20 if they have 20/10 vision. A person who can’t see the lower lines on the eye chart will have a higher number. For example 20/50 or 20/400.

Myopia & Hyperopia of Farsighted & Nearsighted

Myopia is the medical term that is used to describe being nearsighted. Being nearsighted is a more commonly used optometry term which more people may have heard. It means that a person can see up close but has a problem seeing objects at a distance.

Hyperopia is the medical term used to describe being farsighted. Being farsighted is the opposite of being nearsighted. It means that you can see things at a distance but have a problem viewing objects up close.


Presbyopia is one of the more common vision terms. And, unfortunately, most people will hear their optometrist use the term to describe their vision at some point in their lifetime. Presbyopia is when a person starts to have trouble focusing up close. It is caused by the natural aging of the eye. It usually starts to affect people in their early forties and fifties.


Astigmatism is also one of the more common vision terms which people know or hear during their eye exam. Astigmatism can occur with other vision conditions, such as myopia, hyperopia, and presbyopia.  Astigmatism is a vision problem that occurs because parts of the eye, such as the cornea or crystalline lens aren’t round but shaped more like an egg or football. This causes the light to focus on different parts of the back of the eye, instead of one sharp point. Most people can have astigmatism corrected with glasses or contact lenses.

Strabismus or Eye Turn

Strabismus is often referred to by most people as an eye turn or being cross-eyed. When a person has strabismus, their eyes don’t align at the same time as they are supposed to function. With strabismus, one or both eyes might turn in, out, up or down.

Amblyopia or Lazy Eye

Amblyopia is most well known as a lazy eye. It occurs when vision doesn’t develop properly due to a misunderstanding between the eye and brain. It starts when a child is an infant and results in a decrease in vision within the amblyopic or “lazy” eye. Amblyopia can often be corrected if caught in the early stages. It is sometimes hard to detect. That is why it is important to have a child’s eyes and eye health during infancy.

If during an eye exam, you don’t understand any of the vision terms which your doctor is talking about, please ask for an explanation or clarity. It is important to know about your eyes and vision!

We love helping and taking care of our patients and all of their vision needs. If you are in need of an eye exam, please call our office at (403)255-2826 or book an appointment online, in real-time here!

This article was written by Trina Vanaalst, registered contact lens practitioner, and licensed optician.

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