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What is Visual Acuity

Updated: Mar 2




Simply put, visual acuity is how well you see. An eye doctor might define it as the clearness or sharpness of a person’s vision. When you hear people refer to their vision and 20/20, 20/40, or something similar, they are referring to their visual acuity.


As your eye care professionals serving University Place, Tacoma, and Lakewood, we want your visual acuity to be as close to 20/20 as possible, and we have the expertise to get you there.


What is it

Visual acuity is one of the first things we assess during an eye exam. This is the common exam where we place you 20 feet away from the Snellen vision chart (the one with all the letters of different sizes). We cover each eye and assess how well you can see.


What does it mean?

We know that someone with 20/20 vision has “perfect” vision, but what does it mean? Let’s clarify a few things first. The first, or top number is the distance in feet from the Snellen vision chart. The second, or bottom number is the distance at which a person with normal eyesight can read the same line. So, a person with 20/20 vision can see what an average person can see on an eye chart when they are standing 20 feet away.


A person with 20/30 vision can see at 20 feet, what “normal” people see at 30 feet, meaning their vision is slightly worse than 20/20 vision. But you can have better than 20/20 vision. If you have 20/15 vision, you can see a line in the eye chart at 20 feet that the average person can only see when they are 15 feet away.


Fun fact, some occupations require you to have 20/20 vision. Read more here.


Why is it Important

Visual acuity is a basic but important assessment that helps ophthalmologists and optometrists gain an understanding of how your visual system is functioning.


While it can’t tell us everything about your vision, it can help indicate whether or not you need glasses or contacts.


And as you see you routinely see your eye professional, they will use your visual acuity to track whether or not your vision is getting worse over time.


At your next eye exam, we would be happy to go into further detail about your visual acuity and what it means for your vision needs. Contact us today to schedule your comprehensive eye exam



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