How to Read Your Contact Lens Prescription

You’ve completed your contact lens fitting and come away with your new contact lens prescription, but what does it all mean? This article will help you to read and understand your contact lens prescription.

BC: This is short-form for Base Curve and represents how curved the contact lens is. The smaller the number the more curved the contact lens is. Your optician will try and match the curve of your contact lens to the curve of your eye to find the best fitted contact lens for you.

DIA: This stands for Diameter and is the length of the contact lens from one edge of the lens to the other. This is effectively the size of the contact lens and is used to make sure the contact lens covers the correct parts of your eye.

Contact Lens Type/Manufacturer: Most contact lens prescriptions will have a brand/type/manufacturer name so that it is possible to reorder your lenses provided the prescription is still valid.

Power (pwr)/Sphere (sph): This value is the power of the lens needed to correct your long or short-sightedness and is measured in Dioptres (D). A minus (-) sign indicates that you are Short-Sighted, whereas a plus (+) sign shows that you are Long-Sighted. The higher the number, the stronger your prescription.

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Toric Contact Lenses (for Astigmatism)

Cylinder/Cyl: This is the amount of astigmatism you have and is to do with how curved the structures in your eye are. If this section is empty you do not have astigmatism and are just long or short sighted. If you do have astigmatism, a value will be entered in this box along with an Axis.

Axis: Measured in degrees, this value is normally between 0-180 and is the direction where an extra power is added in the contact lens to correct your astigmatism.

Multifocal Contact Lenses (for long and short sight)

Add: This is the magnifying power added to your multifocal contact lenses to help with reading and close work. This can be recorded as High, Low, Medium or with the power value itself and will always be a + value.

Expiry: A contact lens prescription must always include an expiry date. This will depend on the type of lens you have and the health of your eye. It is an important reminder for regular checkups. You will not be able to purchase contact lenses once the prescription has expired.

Contact Lens Prescriptions and Spectacle Prescriptions - How to Tell the Difference

It’s very common for a glasses prescription to be confused with a contact lens prescription but it is really important to know the difference between the two when ordering your contact lenses.

A glasses prescription cannot be used to purchase contact lenses.

A contact lens sits on the surface of the eye whereas a spectacle lens sits slightly further away. This difference in position affects the resulting power of the lens.

The sphere, cylinder and axis values found in a glasses prescription will need to be adjusted by your optician to get the same power in a contact lens. This is something that only your optician can calculate for you.

A spectacle prescription will not have:
• A base curve
• A diameter
• A contact lens type/manufacturer

A contact lens prescription will typically not have:
• An axis value other than steps of 5 or 10 degrees.