Dr. Matthew Sharpe- Founder of SharpeVision

By Dr. Matthew R. Sharpe

September 3, 2021

What does 20/25 vision mean?

If you have 20/25 vision, it means you’re just a tiny bit blurry compared to most other people. It could be that you have a slight glasses prescription, it could be that you have dry eyes, or it could be many other things.

For your reference, here are some different visual acuities that kind of help you to know roughly what the different vision is like:


This is close to the limit of human vision. It’s estimated by anatomists that 20/5 is probably the absolute limit in regards to our retinal cellular make up. Reportedly WWII fighter pilot Chuck Yeager could see 20/8 which would mean he could see fighter jets coming from 50 miles away in the sky. 20/10 vision is typically observed very healthy young people. It’s estimated that about 3% of the population is capable of seeing 20/10, which means that about one person out of 33 is capable of seeing 20/10 even with glasses.


This is excellent vision. It also is observed in young healthy people with healthy ocular surfaces. Many times someone with an extreme degree of nearsightedness or astigmatism is not capable of seeing 20/15. It’s estimated however that about two people out of three are capable of seeing 20/15.


This is considered “average“ vision. There are many people that are not capable of seeing this well due to any number of reasons or pathologic conditions. Many healthy young people also can see no better than 20/20. It’s almost always difficult for someone to see the 20/15 line, but most healthy people should be able to see the 20/20 line.


This is the point where most states’ departments of motor vehicles (DOT) require someone to see during the night time in order to get a driver’s license for day and night driving. Its roughly the uncorrected vision of someone who has -1.00 glasses or contacts. It’s also the point where most people who have cataracts start to notice that they are not seeing well. If your vision is 20/40 or worse and you have a cataract, it’s likely time to get it out. See your eye doctor for an evaluation, or call us at 425-451-2020 or schedule a cataract evaluation at sharpe-vision.com.


This is the point at which you must be able to see in order to get a driver’s license for daytime only vision. Many people have visual conditions that allow them to maintain their independence but are not legally allowed to drive after dark due to their decreased vision. Many conditions can cause vision to decrease but cataract, glaucoma, and macular degeneration are the most common causes in the United States.


This is very confusing because most people who need glasses will see worse than this without their glasses, but can see 20/20 or better with their glasses. Most people say they are “legally blind” when they simply need glasses to see clearly. The definition of “Legal blindness” is when someone can see no better than 20/200 vision in the better of their two eyes even with glasses. These are people who have some pathology going on, not those who simply need to wear glasses.


This is the big “E” on the vision chart. Typically it is placed 20 feet away from the observer. If you cannot see the big E even with glasses, you may have what’s called low vision and be eligible for government aid. It’s very difficult to function in society with this level of vision without the extensive aid in the form of companion animals, “seeing-eye dogs,” low vision aids, magnifying glasses, etc.

For this particular blog we have decided to discuss “what is 20/25 vision?”

It’s often confusing to my patients when we talk about anything other than 20/20 vision. Most people know that 20/20 vision is good, but they don’t know what 20/25 vision means. Is 20/25 vision good? What is 20/25 vision? So I’ll try to help you understand 20/25 vision meaning. 20/25 vision simply means that what you (first number) can see at 20 feet, someone with average (good) vision can see at 25 feet. It’s therefore slightly below the average, because the average person can see it a little farther away. Conversely, if you have 20/15 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet what someone with average vision could see clearly at 15 feet. That is, they would have to get closer to the vision chart to see it. You can see it farther away. Most healthy people can get to 20/15 vision. At SharpeVision we are concerned about the amount of prescription, general ocular health, your age, and visual needs. However we are also concerned if we cannot get someone to see 20/25 or better vision with their glasses, there are many causes (see previous post on “why is my eyesight getting worse?“).

The vision charts that we use in our doctors’ offices are standardized so that one eye doctor can tell another eye doctor what someone’s vision is and they should be able to replicate that in their own clinic. The charts have been around since the mid-1800s. Although they have been modified slightly, they are still very similar to what we used a long time ago. What you can see on a vision chart is important, but there are other very important functions of your vision. There is contrast sensitivity, which describes something that is washed out versus dark, and clear. There is your visual field, which is important to be able to see objects in your peripheral vision. Someone could have excellent acuity, and see 20/15 but have very little peripheral vision. This could happen if vision had been compromised by something like glaucoma, a stroke, or other damage to the visual cortex part of the brain. Other elements of visual function include color sensitivity. About one in seven males has decreased red-green color vision, and is called “cold-blind.” There are other types of color vision deficits but that is the most common. There is stereo vision or depth perception which is also extremely important to determine the distance of objects as they approach. Depth perception is possible to some extent with one eye but works much better with two eyes. One last element of visual function is the ability to change your point of focus from distance to near. Everyone gets presbyopia, which is the loss of flexibility of the lens for which prevents someone from seeing both distance and near, typically after the age of about 45.

As you can tell, there are many different types of vision. It is truly incredible the sensitivity and complexity of our visual systems. As an Ophthalmologist, it’s my job and duty to help people maintain healthy vision throughout their lives. At SharpeVision,  we are focused on helping people get out of glasses so that they can have crisp clear uncorrected vision without any glasses or contact lenses. If someone couldn’t walk 20 feet, we would do everything we could to help them walk without help. If someone can’t see 20 feet, we should do the same – give us a call or schedule online at 425-451-2020 or sharpe–vision.com.

Signature of Dr. Matthew Sharpe, MD

-Dr. Matthew Sharpe

Dr. Matthew Sharpe- Founder of SharpeVision

Dr. Matthew R. Sharpe

Dr. Matthew Sharpe is an Ophthalmologist specializing in refractive surgery and the owner SharpeVision MODERN LASIK & LENS, with offices in Seattle, Austin, and Chicago. Dr. Sharpe is a world traveler, pianist, marathon runner, motorcyclist, and fluent French speaker. He enjoys every second of life, but finds he is happiest at home cheering on The Ohio State Buckeyes with his wife, three children, and four dogs.
Signature of Dr. Matthew Sharpe, MD
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