The 20/20 Myth


Many have been led to believe that 20/20 sight means that one's vision is excellent. Unfortunately, all 20/20 tells you is that you can read a certain sized letter at a certain distance. Most frequently the 20/20 testing is done monocularly (i.e. with one eye at a time only).  Also, depending on the eye care practitioner, you may have anywhere from ten seconds to a couple minutes to try to determine the letters on the 20/20 line.


20/20 does NOT tell you things such as:


    - how long you can read that letter for clearly

    - how comfortably you can read that letter

    - how well you can transfer from working on a near task

      to a distance task and back

    - whether your two eyes are tracking a target efficiently

    - how your brain interprets the information

    - how your visual perceptual skills are

    - how efficient your binocular coordination is

    - that you will be able to perform well in sports

    - whether your eyes can track together properly when




An individual can have 20/20 sight and still have a visual perceptual problem or a learning difficulty that has a major visual roadblock contributing (if not creating) the problem.


An individual can have 20/20 sight and have poor eye hand coordination. They even can have achieved moderate to high levels of success in their athletic endeavors but still have visual difficulties which are hindering them from achieving their potential.


An individual can have 20/20 sight and see words move on the page when reading... or have troubles learning to read... or continue reversing letters/numbers... or have troubles with attention (sometimes labelled ADD/ADHD).



How could someone with 20/20 eyesight still benefit from prescription glasses?


For some individuals, they can attain 20/20 sight acuity, but it takes their visual system A LOT of effort to maintain that clarity. For some, that will mean eyestrain or headaches, but for some, they may not experience major discomfort that they are aware of.


Let 's look at a soccer example. You can play soccer with regular running shoes, but you often can perform better if you wear cleats. Why? With the cleats you get a better push off and better traction... less EFFORT to perform the task of running and turning.  Does that mean that you will become dependent on wearing cleats in order to play soccer?  No.  You can still play soccer with regular running shoes.  Playing soccer with cleats provides benefits to the player and allows him to exert his energy on other aspects of his soccer game.


In many instances, wearing appropriately prescribed glasses for nearwork can reduce the EFFORT and visual TENSION created by such near tasks. This can help increase ENDURANCE and improve performance.  When shown to beneficial, performance lenses may be prescribed.




Calgary Vision Therapy

Dr. Brent W. Neufeld, Optometrist


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