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What is my Optometrist Saying?

Fingers Framing Eyes 1280x853Going to any doctor’s appointment, whether it’s your eye doctor or a general physician’s office, can be overwhelming as a patient. It doesn’t matter if it’s a routine checkup, or if you’ve been requested to come in, it can be a bit hard on the nerves. What makes it slightly more stressful is not knowing what your doctor is trying to tell you.

This isn’t your general language barrier here, this is that medical (or in this case Optometry) jargon that you’re not used to hearing in your everyday life. Therefore, we’ve rounded up the most common terms you would hear or see at your optometrist’s office and deciphered them for you.

Please keep in mind, we've kept things at the most basic level as to make it easy to remember.

OD and OS

When looking at the prescription your Optometrist gives you, you will see the letters OD and OS followed by your prescription.

This literally means Right, for OD and Left, for OS.

OD stands for Oculus Dextrus and OS stands for Oculus Sinister. Which are fancy Latin words for Right and Left.

Astigmatism and/or Toric

This is a type of prescription a patient may have; when looking at the prescription your Doctor gives you, you’ll see three numbers rather than one.

Astigmatism Prescription Example:

OD -3.25-1.25x78

OS -2.00-0.75x12

This means that the front of your eye (if you have Astigmatism) is shaped more like a footbal rather than a basketball. Basically, your eye needs a different power in each direction to see clearly. This is nothing to worry about, it’s just a more precise correction in glasses and contacts that is needed to help you see better.


Woman Trying on GlassesA Bifocal prescription is when, along with a distance prescription, there is a reading power (or Add Power). This reading prescription that is added on top of your distance.

This generally occurs as people get older as your eyes change with age.

Bifocal RX Example:

OD -1.25 DS

OS -1.00  DS

ADD +2.00

In some cases, if your distance prescription is minor, you could manage with just a single pair of “reading only” glasses. In other cases, you may consider either juggling two types of glasses (one for reading and one for distance) or investing in a pair of bifocal lenses.  In case you are wondering, “DS” is short for “Diopters Sphere”, which indicates there is no astigmatism.

The bifocal lenses are those glasses that have a line running horizontally through it. That line is separating the distance part of your lens from the reading part of your lens. So, you can do it all without having to carry the extra pairs of glasses.


Think of Progressives as the Bifocal’s “cooler cousin”. It’s the same concept; both distance and reading in one lens, but without the line! This is the more fashionable option since the person looking at you would never know that your glasses are meant for more than just one thing.

A bonus to the Progressive lens is being able to see at an Intermediate distance, think about an arm’s length away. This benefits those who work on a computer and need to do more than just see far away and up close.

A lot goes on in an Optometrist’s office, and this is just a small sample of things you may hear or see there that you don’t fully understand. If there’s ever a time you don’t understand what’s being said, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor or one of our staff members, as we’re always happy to help.

Have any questions about any of the above, or anything else about your vision needs, just ask us!