West St. Paul: 651-457-2020
Stillwater: 651-439-4265

How to Read Your Prescription

Have you ever received your prescription at the end of your exam but were unsure how to interpret it? Below are some common questions and terms explained to help you better understand what each part of your prescription means. If you have any questions about your prescription, please reach out to our office.

What does it mean to be nearsighted?

Nearsightedness (myopia) is the most commonly diagnosed refractive error. Nearsighted individuals have difficulty reading road signs and clearly seeing distant objects. This refractive error typically begins in childhood and stabilizes in early adulthood. Symptoms of myopia include squinting, eye strain, and headaches.

What does it mean to be farsighted?

Farsightedness (hyperopia) affects about one-fourth of the population.* Farsighted individuals will have difficulty focusing on objects up close but can clearly see objects at a distance. The eye shape of someone who is farsighted is shorter than normal. For this reason, many children are born farsighted and outgrow it as their eyeball grows.

I have astigmatism, what does that mean?

Individuals with astigmatism usually experience some degree of blur or distortion at all distances. In astigmatism, light comes into the retina at multiple focus points because of an irregular shaped cornea, which causes blurring. With astigmatism, one or both eyes can be farsighted, one or both eyes can be nearsighted, or one eye can be nearsighted while the other is farsighted.

Reading the Prescription

Your prescription is an outline of corrections your eyes need in order to see as precisely as possible. Every prescription will look different based on the patient’s eyes. If you have questions or do not understand a section of your exam or prescription, be sure to ask your doctor.

OD and OS

Doctors use the abbreviations OD, OS, and OU when writing a prescription for eyeglasses, contact lenses, and eye medicines. OD and OS are abbreviations for the latin words oculus dexter (right eye) and oculus sinister (left eye). The latin term oculus uterque is used for describing both eyes.

Other terms on your prescription:

  • Sphere (SPH): Indicates the lens power needed to correct nearsightedness or farsightedness. If you have a minus sign (-) you are nearsighted; if you have a plus sign (+) or no sign you are farsighted.
  • Cylinder (CYL): Indicates the amount of lens power for astigmatism. If nothing appears in this column you do not have astigmatism. The minus sign is for nearsighted astigmatism and a plus sign for farsighted astigmatism.
  • Axis: Indicates the direction of astigmatism. For example, if the axis is 180 degrees the astigmatism is horizontal.
  • Add: Indicates the magnifying power applied to the bottom of multifocal lenses to correct presbyopia. The number is typically a plus power and will be the same for both eyes.
  • Prism: This is to compensate for eye alignment problems, a very small percentage of prescriptions contain a prismatic power. Abbreviations used for prism direction: BU- base up, BD- base down, BI- base in, BO- base out.

Sample Prescription:

how to read your prescription

*All About Vision

We are happy to be back seeing routine eye care! When you come in for your next appointment you will see we have made several changes to prevent the spread of COVID-19,  including the following: 

1)  The number of patients we see in a day will initially be reduced.  Both the number of available exam appointments and optical encounters will be kept to a minimum to allow for appropriate social distancing and limit the number of patients in our clinic at any given time.

2) When you arrive for your appointment, we kindly ask you please call our office (651-457-2020) to let us know you have arrived.  Our doors will remain locked for the time being. When we are ready for your appointment, we will meet you at the front door and screen for temperature.  If you have a mask of your own, please bring it along to your appointment.  Otherwise, we will provide a mask if you do not already have one. It will be required that you wear a mask for the entirety of your visit within the clinic. 

3) We will continue curbside dispenses glasses, contact lens and eye vitamins.  If you need to pick up any of these items, please call our front desk and a staff member will bring them directly to your car.

4) We require that patients arrive for their exams alone.  Patients can only be accompanied by one other person if they are either a) a minor or b) have mental/physical disabilities.  Again, any patient or caretaker entering the building must wear a mask.  Any accompanied person will be screened for temperature as well.

5) In addition, all of our staff and doctors will have their temperature checked prior to beginning their work day.  All staff will have proper PPE compliant with new regulations.  Although it may seem impersonal, we at Dakota Eye Care are working and will continue to work tirelessly to ensure the safety of both our staff and patients.  Our new policies in regards to social distancing, clinic hygiene, etc. will be posted for you to review.

We have spent the several weeks ensuring we're in compliance with every CDC hygiene guideline for safety of our doctors, staff and patients.  We are excited to get back to work, but in the safest environment possible.  If you have any questions on our new protocols, do not hesitate to ask.  We hope to see you soon and please stay safe!