Most of us remember when we were young and our mom was trying to get us to eat some hated food such as her overcooked carrots or gooey spinach. While you were busy pushing said food around your plate to give the appearance of having eaten some of it, your Mom probably said something like this:
“You know, Billy’s mother said he just had his eyes examined and she said he has 20/20 vision. I guess he must have eaten his carrots.”
Whether you’re from Skokie or Tuskegee, we’ve all heard that kind of talk from our mothers. But do we really understand what she is celebrating the aforementioned Billy for? What exactly is 20/20 vision?
20/20 vision by definition
The American Optometric Association defines the term, saying it is “used to express normal visual acuity (the clarity or sharpness of vision) measured at a distance of 20 feet.” People with 20/20 vision can see objects, type, etc. that should normally be seen at that distance. The back number is the one that really counts. So, if your vision is 20/100, you need to be at 20 feet to see what a person with 20/20 vision can see at 100 feet.
But the 20/20 moniker doesn’t necessarily mean the person has perfect vision (so there, Billy!). The 20/20 term is only an indicator of sharpness or vision clarity at a distance. It doesn’t take into account other important factors of vision — peripheral awareness (otherwise known as side vision), eye coordination, depth perception, focusing ability, and color vision. A person could have 20/20 eyesight but be colorblind.
A farsighted person may be able to see the eye chart just fine. But ask that person to read the scorecard after a round of golf, and he’ll be reaching for his reading glasses. And after 40, just about everyone gets presbyopia, where our up-close vision is challenged by lack of flexibility in the lenses of our eyes.
Plus, no matter what your prescription, be it 20/20, 20/60, or 20/400, you need to maintain the practice of regularly visiting Dr. Sondheimer. Why? Things like glaucoma and macular degeneration are evil in that they don’t often show symptoms until about the time they are doing permanent damage to your vision. But Dr. Sondheimer can spot this stuff long before that will happen.