A Clearer View

Latest treatment options and news about cataracts, dry eye syndrome and other eye care topics.

20/20 Vision and Understanding Your Visual Acuity Score

by Damion Wasylow 29 June 2021 12:44 PM

eyeglasses on snellen eye chart
Sometimes, expressions are used so often in movies, TV shows or other pop culture that we take for granted that we know what they mean. We may even start using them incorrectly, without truly understanding. One example is “20/20 vision.” You’ve almost certainly heard someone claim to have “20/20 vision” to suggest their eyes are perfect, but is that really what it means?

What is 20/20 Vision?

20/20 is one possible score from a visual acuity test, which is conducted as part of a comprehensive eye exam. Most people are familiar with the Snellen visual acuity test, which requires reading a series of decreasingly small letters from a chart on the eye doctor’s wall. Another version is the Random E test, in which you identify the direction the capital letter E is facing as the eye doctor shows it to you through a series of lenses. These tests are designed to evaluate your ability to distinguish details and shapes of objects. A score of 20/20 on a visual acuity test means that you have normal vision.

Is 20/20 Perfect Vision?

20/20 vision isn’t necessarily perfect, but it’s pretty darn good. As noted above, 20/20 is really just normal vision. The score means that at a distance of 20 feet, you can see clearly what you and other people with normal vision should be able to see clearly at 20 feet. Hence, “20/20.” About 35% of adults in the U.S. have 20/20 vision. When you add in those who have 20/20 vision when wearing their eyeglasses or contact lenses, that number jumps to 75%.

It’s actually possible to have better than 20/20 vision. People with visual acuity scores of 20/10, for example, can see clearly at 20 feet what a person with normal vision would have to be within 10 feet to see clearly. There is even one recorded report of a person with 20/5 vision, but most researchers question the authenticity of that report. 

What Do Other Visual Acuity Scores Mean?

Of course, if only 35% of U.S. adults have unaided 20/20 vision or better, that means 65% of Americans have lower visual acuity scores. For these people, it’s pretty common to see scores closer to 20/40, meaning they have to be within 20 feet to clearly see what people with normal vision would see clearly at 40 feet. This can usually be remedied through the use of corrective lenses.

In some cases, a person’s vision may be so poor that even with corrective lenses they can still only achieve a 20/40 visual acuity score. That’s the lowest score possible to still get a driver’s license in most states.

More extreme cases also exist. A person with a lens-assisted visual acuity score of 20/200, for example, is considered legally blind. 

If it’s been a while since your last comprehensive eye exam, now might be the right time to contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care to find out your visual acuity score. Call us today at 352-373-4300 to schedule an appointment or stop by one of our two convenient Gainesville locations: NW 8th Avenue and 43rd Street or Tioga Town Center on West Newberry Road.



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