I Have 20/100 Vision: What Does That Mean?

If you’ve been diagnosed with 20/100 vision, it’s important to understand what that means. Low vision can make daily tasks like cooking a meal, reading a book, or driving that much more difficult. The good news is that with the right corrective measures, you’ll most likely be able to handle those tasks — and more — with ease.

Let’s define exactly what 20/100 vision means and how it compares with good vision. We’ll also explore what measures are available to help correct low vision and make your life easier.

What Is Visual Acuity?

20 100 vision: patient doing a visual acuity test

Visual acuity describes your clarity of vision or sharpness of vision. It’s defined by how clearly you can see objects at a distance with your good eye (the one you see best with).

If you can see objects that are 20 feet away, without any blurring, you have 20/20 vision. The American Optometric Association (AOA) considers this normal visual acuity. This is a kind of reference standard — or how far most people should be able to see.

As your vision declines, the distance at which you can see decreases. For example, if you have 20/100 vision, that means that while most people with normal vision could see an object at 100 feet, you need to be 20 feet away to see it as clearly.

Note: Just because someone has 20/20 vision — normal vision — doesn’t mean they have perfect vision. There are also other factors involved in overall visual ability, including:

  • Peripheral vision (or side vision)

  • Depth perception

  • Color vision

  • Ability to focus

  • Eye coordination

How Is Visual Acuity Tested?

If you’re worried about your vision — for example, your vision is blurry or you’re getting headaches from eye strain — your first step should be to visit your optometrist. They’ll do a comprehensive eye examination that includes a vision test to determine whether you have 20/20 vision, 20/100 vision, or something in between, like 20/40 vision.

Visual acuity tests are done using a Snellen eye chart. This consists of rows of letters that get smaller as they move down the page. Your eye doctor will determine your prescription based on how many rows down you can read:

  • If you can read up to line 8 without glasses, your visual acuity is a normal 20/20. If you can read line 8 with glasses or contact lenses, it’s “20/20 with best correction.”

  • If you can only get down to line 2, you have 20/100 vision.

  • If you can only read the first line, even with corrective lenses, your visual acuity is 20/200 or worse.

Does 20/100 Vision Mean You’re Legally Blind?

Woman consulting an optometrist

In the United States, the definition for legal blindness is 20/200 or less in your good eye, plus a visual field of 20 degrees or less.

Your field of vision describes how far you can see to the sides while keeping your eyes still. A visual field of 20 degrees essentially means you have tunnel vision and can only see what’s directly in front of you.

When someone is diagnosed as legally blind, they may be entitled to disability benefits and tax exemption programs, as well as other assistance.

With visual acuity of 20/100, you aren’t legally blind. However, you may be referred for a specialized low vision exam to identify what optical devices or other support systems could help you.

What Can Cause Vision Loss?

There are many eye conditions and eye diseases that can affect light perception and result in visual impairment. For example, you may have 20/100 vision due to:

  • Myopia (or nearsightedness): You can see objects close to you but not those further away.

  • Hyperopia (or farsightedness): You can see objects far away but not close up.

  • Presbyopia: This develops with age as your eyes lose their ability to easily change focus, again making it difficult to see objects close up.

  • Astigmatism: When your cornea or lens is slightly irregular, light doesn’t hit your retina in the right way, causing refractive errors.

  • Cataracts: A portion of the lens clouds over, which can cause blurry images or double vision.

  • Glaucoma: The optic nerve, which transports images from the retina to the brain, can be affected, causing gradually increasing loss of peripheral vision.

  • Macular degeneration: The central part of the retina, which receives light, can deteriorate, resulting in a slowly expanding dark dot in the central field of vision.

  • Trauma: Your eye may be damaged in an accident of some kind.

Optometry has come a long way and can diagnose all of these things. Your eye doctor will then be able to suggest the right corrective measures for you, even if you do have 20/100 vision.

Although genetics does play a role here, there are many things you can do to improve your eye health. Good eye care — and good general healthcare — can minimize the chances of eye disease. For example:

  • Eat healthily

  • Manage your weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar

  • Don’t smoke

  • Regularly rest your eyes, especially if you work online a lot

Correcting Low Vision

Two women wearing glasses

All of this may sound scary, but with the right correction measures in place, you can go about your day perfectly normally. Depending on your specific condition, your optician may suggest contact lenses, eyeglasses with corrective lenses, or eye surgery.

Although eye surgery — laser in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) surgery) — can sometimes be a longer-term solution, it’s not for everyone and it requires an ophthalmologist to conduct the procedure.

The easiest solution is a pair of glasses fitted with the right prescription for you. Even if you do have 20/100 vision, these days it’s easy to get prescription glasses that you’ll feel comfortable in.

Take Pair Eyewear for example. At Pair Eyewear, you start by selecting a Base Frame — use our Virtual Try-On feature to find one that suits your face. Then you get to choose as many magnetic Top Frames as you like from a wide range of men’s and women’s styles. Opt for one that suits your personality or several to complement your favorite outfits. We cater to kids too, with a range of fun styles they’ll love.

Once you’ve chosen your frames, you select the lens type — we can do single vision, progressives, or readers — and any extra features like blue-light filtering or light responsiveness, and add your prescription. Before you know it, your new glasses will be delivered to your door, all at a price point that fits your pocket.

Manage Your 20/100 Vision for Quality of Life

Visual acuity refers to how clearly you can see images and it’s tested using a Snellen eye chart. 20/20 vision is considered normal, while 20/100 means you can see at 20 feet what most people can see at 100 feet.

Many conditions can cause low vision, including myopia, hyperopia, presbyopia, astigmatism, and various eye diseases. However, most of these can be corrected with the right prescription glasses. Take your pick from a wide range at Pair Eyewear and enhance your look and your eyesight. It’s a win/win.