Vision Care Jargon Buster

Have you ever had the experience of going to see your optician and not understanding what they’re talking about in the slightest? Well, you’re not alone. Many of us have had the confusing, and sometimes frightening, experience of being told what’s wrong with our eyes in very scientific terms that we don’t understand. This can lead to a lack of understanding about our own health and, consequently, a lack of knowledge about how to take care of our eyes. As we know how important it is to understand exactly how to look after your vision, here are some of the most common words used by opticians with full explanations of what they mean.


Myopia is one of the most common vision problems, and is also known as nearsightedness or shortsightedness. If you are shortsighted, you will struggle to see things that are far away, with the exact distance depending on how shortsighted you are. Myopia is the term often used by opticians when diagnosing and discussing this condition, so it is a good idea to become familiar with it. Myopia develops in eyes that focus images in front of the retina instead of on the retina, which results in distance vision becoming blurred. This occurs when the eyeball becomes too long and prevents incoming light from focusing directly on the retina. It may also be caused by the cornea or lens becoming too curved for the eye ball.


Hyperopia is essentially the opposite of myopia: it means that you are longsighted, or farsighted. Hyperopia is a very common type of refractive error where distant objects may be seen more clearly than objects that are near. Despite this simple definition, people actually experience farsightedness very differently. Some people may not notice any problems with their vision, especially when they are young. But for people with significant hyperopia, vision can be blurry for objects at any distance, near or far. Hyperopia develops in eyes that focus images behind the retina instead of on the retina, which occurs when the eyeball is too short or the cornea is misshapen.


Astigmatism is a very common vision problem, with some opticians claiming that 80% of the population have it. Astigmatism means that the eye does not focus light evenly onto the retina, and occurs when light is bent differently depending on where it strikes the cornea and passes through the eyeball. The cornea of a normal eye is curved like a basketball, with the same degree of roundness in all areas. An eye with astigmatism has a cornea that is curved more like a rugby ball, with some areas that are steeper or more rounded than others. This can cause images to appear blurry and stretched out.


Presbyopia is a common type of vision disorder that occurs as you age. It is often referred to as the ageing eye condition. Presbyopia results in the inability to focus up close, a problem associated with refraction in the eye. This happens because the eye is not able to focus light directly on to the retina due to the hardening of the natural lens. The ineffective lens causes light to focus behind the retina, causing poor vision for objects that are up close.

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