Vision Care Glossary

Definitions of Eye Care and Vision Terms

The Layperson's Guide to Vision Terminology

The following article will provide definitions and explanations to clarify basic terminology of standard eye care and vision-related services. It is not intended to be used as a diagnostic tool, or as a replacement for a comprehensive eye examination or treatment. Always contact an optometrist for any signs or symptoms of eye injury, trauma, infection, or visual-motor, neurological complications.

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Anatomy of an Eye: Key Terms for Parts of the Eye

The basic parts of the eyeball include the following:

  • Cones: Cones and rods comprise the photoreceptor. Cones are primarily found in the macula and are responsible for clarity of vision, color, and central vision.
  • Conjunctiva: Lines the inner eyelid and the eyeball, and acts as a barrier from foreign substances.
  • Cornea: Clear section of the front of the eye, that directs light into the eye and is responsible for most of our ability to focus.
  • Eyelids: The outer flaps of skin covering and protecting the eyeball. Composed of upper and lower lids.
  • Eye: General term for the entire organ of vision.
  • Iris: The colored region of the eye surrounding the pupil.
  • Lacrimal Gland: Critical for the formation of tears.
  • Lens: The region of the eye responsible for sending light to the retina.
  • Macula: Small region of the eye that aids in our sharp central vision.
  • Optic nerve: A group of nerves responsible for sending messages from the eye to the brain.
  • Orbit: The bony structure housing the eyeball.
  • Pupil: The black part of the eye, which acts as a corridor for light to the retina. Changes size depending on the amount of light.
  • Retina: Region at the part of the eye that detects light.
  • Rods: Light-sensitive detectors responsible for peripheral and night vision. Rods and cones make up the photoreceptors.
  • Sclera: The white fibrous outer layer of the eyeball.

Key Terms For Common Eye Conditions and Disorders

Common eye diseases, complications, or conditions related to vision disorders include:

  • Amblyopia: Sometimes referred to as "lazy eye", this condition occurs when the brain fails to process data of one of the eyes.
  • Astigmatism: Difficulties in the eye resulting from problems of curvature. Can be fixed with corrective lenses.
  • Cataract: Cloudiness of the eye impeding vision that worsens over time. Can be treated surgically.
  • Chalazion: A lump in the eyelid that forms due to a blocked oil gland. Can develop into a stye. Contact an optometrist for treatment. Don't try to drain it yourself.
  • Computer Vision Syndrome: A form of digital eye strain caused by excessive exposure to computers and other digital screens. Can be alleviated by reducing glare on your digital devices, reducing overall usage, and taking periodic breaks to blink and focus on things away from the screen.
  • Conjunctivitis: Also known as pink-eye, most forms of this infection are easily treatable. Often affects children. Common symptoms include redness, irritation, drainage, crustiness, discomfort, and swelling. Can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Corneal laceration: Laceration (slice-like) type injury to the cornea. May be treated with antibiotics or inflammatory medications such as steroids.
  • Corneal abrasion: A traumatic scratch-like injury resulting from a foreign object intruding in the eye or resulting from something that abrades the eye. May be treated with antibiotics or inflammatory medications such as steroids.
  • Corneal ulceration: Also known as keratitis, this is an erosion of the cornea resulting from several kinds of infections ranging in severity. Can lead to loss of vision if left untreated. Symptoms include redness, pain, irritation, light sensitivity, and swelling. Diagnosed with the aid of a slit-lamp, it is often treated with antibiotics and steroid medications.
Key Terms For Common Eye Conditions and Disorders

  • Diabetes: A disease where the body is unable to produce the right amount of insulin or how is unable to use it effectively. Many of the serious effects of diabetes involve ocular complications which can lead to loss of vision. There is a higher prevalence among people of certain ethnic groups, heavy smokers and drinkers, and those with high blood pressure for developing diabetes.
  • Diabetic Retinopathy: One of the disorders of diabetes leading to damaged eyesight.
  • Diplopia: Also known as double vision, which can either be binocular or monocular. Caused by dry eyes, diabetes, a dislocated lens, astigmatism, hyperthyroidism (binocular form). Treatment is usually focused on the underlying condition.
  • Dry Eye Syndrome: This can be caused by several factors including the inability to produce enough tears to lubricate and moisturize the eye.
  • Floaters: These "floating spots" appear across the field of vision and are formed from the vitreous gel of the eye. Most instances are normal but they can occasionally be signs of a more serious issue. Speak to your optometrist if you notice them.
  • Glaucoma: Complications involving damage to the optic nerve from excessive eye pressure cause this degenerative eye condition. Early detection is critical to prevent degeneration. Easily and painlessly diagnosed.
  • Hypertension: Also known as high blood pressure, this is a contributing factor to eye disorders due to damage to blood vessels near the eye.
  • Macular degeneration: This leading cause of a loss of vision in seniors occurs from the erosion of the macula.
  • Myopia: Another term for the condition known as near-sightedness.
  • Retinal Detachment: This emergency condition occurs when the retina detaches from the eye. Surgical intervention is required. Warning signs include the sudden appearance of many floaters, blurred vision, and flashes of light. They can be caused by age, fluid buildup, or scar tissue. Those predisposed include previous occurrences, family history, myopia, and other visual disorders.
  • Strabismus: Also known as cross-eyes, it is very common among children. corrective measures include surgery and prescription lenses.

Knowing Your Way Around An Eye Exam

Common Terms for Examinations, Treatments, and Procedures

  • Eye Examination: Can be either a routine test for visual acuity or a more comprehensive ophthalmic examination to test health and overall vision. Various tools and procedures may be part of an exam to monitor health and vision, and for detecting signs of disease or complications.
  • Fundoscopy/Ophthalmoscope: A means of thoroughly examining the retina using an ophthalmoscope that enables an extensive look at the back of the eye.
  • Slit Lamp: This high-intensity light allows for a thorough assessment of the eye. Often used during a comprehensive eye examination checking overall ocular health.
  • Snellen Chart: Standard test for vision, most recognizable by the large E at the top of the chart.
  • Visual Acuity: Refers to the ability to detect shapes and details. There are various tests to measure this.
  • Visual Deficit: Referring to a decreased ability to see. Can be general or specific.
  • Vision Therapy: Unique, eclectic therapeutic or rehabilitative program that is designed to treat and improve visual-motor, neurological, and cognitive deficits. Can also be used in the absence of a deficit to enhance one's ability and performance, as many athletes do with sports vision therapy.

Miscellaneous Terms

  • Bifocals: Before scheduling an appointment, ask around for recommendations of good specialists in your region. It is best to select professionals with good reputations.
  • Eye Coordination: The ability of the eyes to work together in unison. Can be treated with prescription glasses and in certain cases with Vision Therapy.
  • Multifocals: Glasses that feature focal points on the lenses for different aspects of vision.
  • Progressive Lens: These multifocal have the added advantage of not having lines separating the sections for their respective functions.
Key Terms For Common Eye Conditions and Disorders
Dr. Wernick cartoon

We hope that this glossary of vision care was helpful. No list can be used as a replacement for professional examinations and treatment. Always contact an optometrist if you experience any symptoms of eye injury, infection, or visual motor complications. For more information on general eye care, speak with your optometrist to schedule an appointment. You can schedule an eye exam with our eye doctor by calling (212) 752-6930.


At Amplify with Dr Wernick I was seeking help for seemingly intractable, probably age-related dryness. I've seen other doctors about it, and that has been helpful, but what he explained to me about it and the careful way he answered all my questions gave me so much more of a clear understanding of what is going on (and is not) that I am more able to implement all his and others' recommendations than I was before. And he gave me additional resources for further follow-up. I am most grateful.

Cynthia Norton

Wow! This is a great Eye Care medical facility. I was thoroughly examined by Dr. Pinkhasov for over 2 hours. She made sure to check my eyes for pretty much everything and patiently explained proper care for my eyes. They definitely know how to provide great care and treat their patients right. Now I know why they have such a great reputation and been around for so long.

Steve Fay

Dr. Kavner is a gifted diagnostician and orthoptic therapist. He treated me several decades ago for a condition similar to dyslexia. I was having migraines five times per week. I worked with him for about a year and I experienced tremendous improvement (down to 3-4 per year) that has lasted.

Mary K.

Dr. Kavner recommended two types of eye therapy for my daughter. One of them using bio-feedback. In just three sessions she is seeing considerably better. She shouted this morning: Ooh my God! I could not see these letters with my glasses on, and now I can see them without my glasses. If you are willing and able to invest in improving your vision, this is a good place to go to!

Peter G.

Dr. Kavner recommended two types of eye therapy for my daughter. One of them using bio-feedback. In just three sessions she is seeing considerably better. She shouted this morning: Ooh my God! I could not see these letters with my glasses on, and now I can see them without my glasses. If you are willing and able to invest in improving your vision, this is a good place to go to!

Kinkie F.

I have always found Dr Kavner's work, expertise and wisdom of the highest caliber. As one of the fathers of OT, occupational othomology, his depth and breadth of knowledge about the eyes' health and wellbeing of the patient is exemplary. Cannot say enough good things about him.

Allen B.
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