How Do Glasses Work?

The majority of people can see what is designated as a size 20 letter 20 feet away, and so are said to have 20/20 vision. Persons who can see close objects but cannot see the letters from this distance have myopia that is, nearsightedness. Nearsighted people can see close objects better than they can see objects at a distance. These individuals have an elongated eyeball, and when they attempt to look at a distant object, the image is brought to focus in front of the retina (See figure below). They can see close objects because they can adjust the lens to allow the image to focus on the retina, but to see distant objects, these people must wear concave lenses, which diverge the light rays so that the image can be focused on the retina.

Corrective Lenses: Common abnormalities of the eye, with possible corrective lenses. a. A concave lens in nearsighted persons focuses light rays on the retina. b. A convex lens in farsighted persons focuses light rays on the retina. c. An uneven lens in persons with astigmatism focuses light rays on the retina.

Rather than wear glasses or contact lenses, many nearsighted people are now choosing to undergo laser surgery. First, specialists determine how much the cornea needs to be flattened to achieve visual acuity. Controlled by a computer, the laser then removes this amount of the cornea. Most patients achieve at least 20/40 vision, but a few complain of glare and varying visual acuity.

Persons who can easily see the optometrist’s chart but cannot see close objects well have hyperopia—that is, farsightedness. These individuals can see distant objects better than they can see close objects. They have a shortened eyeball, and when they try to see close objects, the image is focused behind the retina (See the figure). When the object is distant, the lens can compensate for the short eyeball, but when the object is close, these persons must wear a convex lens to increase the bending of light rays so that the image can be focused on the retina.

When the cornea or lens is uneven, the image is fuzzy. The light rays cannot be evenly focused on the retina. This condition, called astigmatism, can be corrected by an unevenly ground lens to compensate for the uneven cornea.

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