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A written prescription for eyeglasses from an ophthalmologist

Correcting your vision requires a prescription unique to you. If you wear glasses, contacts, or both interchangeably, your optometrist will write 2 separate prescriptions because eyeglass and contact lens prescriptions are different. While both prescriptions correct the same vision problems, they’re tailored to their unique lens type.


Most people with refractive errors wear glasses at some point. Glasses are a staple whether you’re giving your eyes a rest from contacts or they’re part of your everyday wardrobe.

Today eyeglass frames are more stylish than ever, and lens technology has made modern frames sleek and lightweight. Glasses are available in 2 primary types: single-vision and multifocal lenses.

Single-vision lenses help correct one vision issue, either distance or near, but multifocal lens technology is available if you struggle to see from multiple distances. Our experienced opticians can help you choose the best lens type for your lifestyle. A few of our multifocal options are:

  • Bifocal lenses, which contain 2 prescriptions to help you see at more than one distance
  • Progressive lenses, which offer a seamless focus at several distances with 3 prescriptions
  • High index and aspheric lenses, which make traditionally thicker lenses thinner and lighter
  • Computer glasses, which can help your eyes focus at the correct distance if you work at a computer or on digital devices

We offer premium optical coatings for your lenses, including anti-glare, anti-scratch, and UV protection. No matter how often you wear your glasses, you should feel comfortable and stylish when sporting your frames.

Contact Lenses

Contact lenses can be a great way to mix up your look and maintain crisp vision. Whether you love to play sports, your glasses don’t match your outfit, or you like to have a second option, contact lenses are an effective way to correct your vision and are available to almost everyone.

There are many types of contact lenses, but most fall into the category of soft lenses or rigid gas permeable lenses, sometimes referred to as hard lenses. Soft contacts are more popular and are available in different replacement options including:

  • Daily lenses
  • Bi-weekly lenses
  • Monthly lenses
  • Extended-wear lenses

If you have astigmatism or need a bifocal, you may still be able to wear contact lenses as soft contact lenses are available in a wide variety of prescriptions.

Popular contact lenses also include decorative lenses—if you want to enhance your eye color, change your eye shade, or have fun with unique options, talk to your optometrist. Despite their playful appearance, decorative contact lenses are still medical devices, and you should discuss them with experts.

A female ophthalmologist is giving a plastic container with prescribed contacts lens to a male patient

Glasses Prescription vs. Contact Lens Prescription: What’s the Difference?

Glasses Prescription

Looking at your eyeglass prescription, you’ll notice a series of numbers and abbreviations. The prescription headers will include OD (oculus dextrus) or RT, meaning the right eye, and OS (oculus sinister) or LT, meaning the left eye. The numbers next to them indicate the strength of vision correction each eye requires.

Numbers with a plus sign (+) in front of them indicate farsightedness, and a minus sign (-) indicates nearsightedness. Typically, the further the number is from zero, the higher the prescription, and the more correction your vision needs.

These numbers represent diopters, the unit used to measure the focusing power, or correction, of the lens your eye needs. Often, diopter is abbreviated to “D.”

If you have astigmatism, your prescription will have additional numbers. These stand for:

  • Spherical (Sph): the spherical portion of the prescription which indicates the degree of nearsightedness or farsightedness
  • Cylinder (Cyl): the degree of astigmatism, measured in diopters
  • Axis: the orientation of astigmatism, measured between 0 and 180 degrees

Contact Lens Prescription

Unlike glasses, which sit about 12 millimeters away from your eyes, contact lenses rest directly on the cornea or surface of the eye. This detail requires your optometrist to take additional measurements to properly fit contact lenses to the eye. Your contact lens prescription may include:

  • Base curve (BC): indicates the contact lens’ shape to determine how curved the lens should be according to the flatness or steepness of your cornea
  • Diameter (DIA): indicates the contact’s width to cover the cornea properly
  • Corrective power: these numbers indicate the amount of correction your lenses need, which is often different from your eyeglass prescriptions
  • Brand: your optometrist may recommend particular brands, materials, and lens types based on your preferences, lifestyle, and eye health.
  • Expiration date: typically, contact lens prescriptions are valid for one year, and you’ll need a new comprehensive exam to purchase contacts beyond that date

Get the Right Prescription

Whether you need updated frames and lenses for the season or need sharper vision in your contact lenses, reach out to us at McCulley Optix Gallery for an eye exam or contact lens fitting to get both prescriptions you need. We can help you find contact lenses to suit your needs or stylish frames to elevate your look. 

Written by Dr. Melissa McCulley

Dr. McCulley graduated with honor from Boston College in 1997 with a bachelor of science and a major in Spanish and pre-medical studies. She then went on to study optometry and graduated with honors from the Southern College of Optometry in 2001. She has past experience from the University of Minnesota Department of Ophthalmology fitting specialty contact lenses and working with low vision patients. Dr. McCulley is experienced in pediatrics and has a keen interest in treating dry eye.
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