A person with peripheral vision loss has difficulty seeing things above, below, or at the side without turning their head. This type of vision loss is also known as tunnel vision. Tunnel vision can significantly impact a person’s daily function.
People with peripheral vision loss see clearly in the center of their field of vision but have impaired peripheral or side vision.
Peripheral vision loss is also known as tunnel vision because people with this condition may feel like they are looking through a tunnel.
Read on to learn more about the causes, treatments, and prevention of peripheral vision loss.
Peripheral vision loss means a person loses the ability to see anything outside of the center of their field of vision. It may be impossible or difficult to see anything on either side unless the person turns their head to center the object in their field of vision.
Central vision refers to what a person can see when looking straight ahead. Peripheral vision is what people can see outside of the center of their visual field.
Experts define the central visual field in terms of the angles from the center line of sight. Central vision allows people to recognize objects.
Peripheral vision loss is also known as tunnel vision or peripheral visual field loss. Peripheral vision loss affects approximately 13% of people over 65 years old.
It can affect one or both eyes. The extent of vision loss may differ from one eye to the other.
People with peripheral vision loss may have trouble:
- recognizing faces
- recognizing scenes
- navigating their environment
- vision-dependent tasks such as cooking, dressing, and hobbies
- mobilizing safely
- emotional health
- social life
These can affect a person’s independence and overall well-being.
Different eye conditions can cause peripheral vision loss.
Glaucoma is a common cause of peripheral vision loss. This condition causes fluid and pressure to build up in the front of the eye, progressively damaging the optic nerve and causing blindness that begins with peripheral vision.
People can also develop peripheral vision loss from retinitis pigmentosa. This condition affects the retinal cells, which are necessary for vision. Retinitis pigmentosa is an inheritable genetic disease.
Retrochiasmal disorders occur when lesions form in the visual pathway that connects the eye to the brain. These lesions can affect peripheral vision.
Carotid artery disease
People with carotid artery disease may experience a lack of blood flow to the brain and eyes. Some people may lose vision on one side, along with weakness or paralysis on one side of the body.
Ophthalmologists and optometrists diagnose peripheral vision loss by performing vision tests to see how far to the side a person can see or identify an object. A confrontation visual field test is a common test for peripheral vision.
While a person looks directly at an object in the center of their visual field, the eye doctor covers one eye. The doctor then displays different objects at varying angles from the center field and asks the person whether they can see them.
Another test eye doctors use to diagnose peripheral vision loss is the automated static perimetry test. This test maps a person’s visual field to determine where they can and cannot see.
While peripheral vision loss is simple to diagnose, it is also important for medical professionals to determine the cause to help treat and prevent progressive vision loss.
Diagnosing the cause may involve a complete eye exam that evaluates:
- eye pressure
- drainage angle
- optic nerve
- cornea thickness
Treatment for peripheral vision loss depends on the cause and whether the condition is temporary or permanent.
The damage is irreversible if the optic nerve is damaged, as might be the case with glaucoma. Doctors can prevent or slow further vision loss by prescribing medications. Some people may also have laser eye surgery or eye surgery to help prevent glaucoma from worsening.
There is no treatment for retinitis pigmentosa, although research is underway, and there is potential for treatment in the future.
Learn more about how to prevent glaucoma from progressing.
Treating peripheral vision loss is challenging, so prevention plays a key role.
For example, the following lifestyle habits may help prevent carotid artery disease and related vision loss:
- avoiding smoking
- eating a nutritious, balanced diet
- drinking alcohol moderately
- treating high cholesterol and high blood pressure
Additionally, certain preventable risk factors can increase a person’s glaucoma risk, including:
Some causes of peripheral vision loss are not preventable.
Regular eye exams are essential for eye health and can help detect vision problems before they cause irreversible blindness.
The following are some questions people frequently ask about peripheral vision loss.
What does sudden loss of peripheral vision mean?
Sudden loss of peripheral vision may mean a person is having a stroke. Other symptoms of stroke that may occur with peripheral vision loss include weakness and paralysis on one side of your body. A stroke is a medical emergency.
Which condition mainly causes a loss of peripheral or side vision at first?
The leading cause of peripheral vision loss is glaucoma. As glaucoma progresses, people may have issues with their central vision.
Can peripheral vision loss occur in one eye, and is it permanent?
Peripheral vision loss may occur in one or both eyes. Depending on the root cause, it can be temporary or permanent.
Peripheral vision loss can make it difficult to perform daily activities such as driving or cooking. This can significantly affect a person’s quality of life and well-being.
Once peripheral vision loss occurs, the damage may be temporary or permanent, depending on the root cause.
Treatment options to improve peripheral vision are limited. Early treatment may help slow the progression of peripheral vision loss. Treatment usually focuses on preventing further peripheral vision loss with medication, surgery, and adopting eye-healthy lifestyle habits.
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