I am one who believes in being an active, informed patient. I think a patient, by taking initiative to learn about their eyes, the nature of what afflicts them, what treatment options exist, and ultimately what prognosis or outcome might be expected, feels stronger in facing vision challenges on a daily basis.

I am always surprised when people tell me they don’t know what their visual acuity measured on their last visit to their eye doctor, or how it was the same or different from a month or a year ago.

Visual acuity is usually a measure of what you see on the Snellen eye chart, the chart with the infamous “E.” The chart is placed at 20 feet from your eyes, or an adjustment is made in the projection equipment to mimic 20 feet. The acuity test is done before your eyes are dilated. You are asked to read increasingly smaller letters. Eventually, you get a score of sorts. Like blood pressure, visual acuity is simply a measurement, and it can vary. Also like blood pressure, it provides a snap shot, or general record, of what you see at a specific point in time. You should know the number. So ask the technician what the number is, and write it down. Over time, changes in this number will mark the progress of your vision, providing, along with other observations you make about how you see, a broader picture of changes in your vision.

My first retinal specialist told me to know the score, but not to obsess on it. He said to insist always on the time needed to work for my best score. If I had to wiggle my eyes around to see those letters, do it. If I consistently worked hard for my scores, there would be at least a level look at what they showed about my ability to see over time.