One of the major misconceptions about visual impairments is that it means someone cannot see at all. In fact, while many people with vision problems will be said to have 20/200 vision, the actual range of sight issues they have can vary quite considerably. For some people it may mean complete loss of sight, but for others, it can mean a wide range of issues that severely restrict their vision in different ways. One of the more common of those is peripheral vision loss, which is often referred to as tunnel vision. But what is peripheral vision, what causes the loss, and how can we prevent it?
Common Causes of Peripheral Vision Problems
Eye diseases are a significant issue for anyone because even minor problems can result in long term vision challenges, and they are the main causes of peripheral vision problems. These include:
- Glaucoma – A disease of the optic nerve that can cause a number of vision issues.
- Retinal eye diseases – Including macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, retinal vein occlusion, optic neuritis and diabetes-related retinopathy
- Stroke –Loss of peripheral vision can be a lasting effect after a stroke.
- Migraine Headaches
- Some types of artery disease
Glaucoma and various retinal eye diseases tend to cause permanent peripheral vision loss, however in the case of many of these illnesses and diseases, the tunnel vision effect may be temporary. In all cases it is crucial that professional medical help is sought immediately to ensure that everything that can be done to mitigate the issue is put into practice.
Symptoms of Peripheral Vision Problems
In most cases, peripheral vision loss doesn’t happen immediately, and is a gradual process that gets progressively worse over time. Peripheral vision problems are not always easy to recognize though, as they affect your field of vision (FOV), but in a very specific way. There are two types of vision that make up how we see the world around us with healthy vision, the first is central vision. This refers to the objects that are directly in front of you, that are in the center of your vision when your eyes are pointed at something. This is where the eyes focus, which is why objects in this central vision are sharper and clearer than anywhere else in your vision range, even if you have completely healthy eyesight.
The second type of vision is peripheral vision. This is the areas surrounding that central vision area, where your eyes are not as tightly focused, that tends to be a little less sharp. Sometimes called side vision, it is what we see from the corner of our eyes, and can be incredibly useful when driving, riding a bike or any number of other activities.
It is this second area of vision, your peripheral vision, that is affected by peripheral vision loss. This may begin with blurry peripheral vision, or it could just seem darker towards the edges, reducing your field of vision so you can see less than you normally could.
As you lose side vision, so the width of your overall vision decreases and you can see little beyond that central vision area, this is known as the tunnel vision effect. This is because it mimics the effect of standing in a dark tunnel looking out of the opening at bright sunlight. You see that central part clearly, but everything else is dark, indistinct and lacking in clarity.
This is the effect of peripheral vision loss, and it is really important to seek medical assistance if you notice any onset of the problem, even if it seems minor. You can take a peripheral vision test with your eye specialist if you have any concerns, but the good news is that many types of peripheral vision problems are treatable, and several causes of peripheral vision problems can be avoided altogether with sensible lifestyle choices.
Peripheral Vision Tests
The best way to maintain your eye health and prevent eye diseases of all kinds, including the loss of peripheral vision, is by having regular eye exams. These allow your ophthalmologist to spot problems early, and with a treatable problem like tunnel vision that can make all the difference. This is especially true for anyone suffering from diabetes, where annual eye exams should be a minimum, and can often be the different in treating your vision problems.
There are three types of eye test that can be useful in dealing with peripheral vision issues, these are:
Confrontation Visual Test
A simple test most people will be familiar with, it involves covering one eye and having the doctor or eye care technician hold up fingers for you to count within your peripheral vision. This is then repeated with the other eye. Simple and easy to administer, it gives a broad idea of the level of side vision someone has, however as it used no instruments for measurement, it may not always catch small side vision defects.
Automated Static Perimetry test
This test uses a device designed specifically to test peripheral vision, known as a Perimeter. One eye is covered, and the patient is asked to press a button every time they see lights appear. The lights are situated all around the area, in both central vision and side vision, and appear in a random order. Once the test is complete with one eye, it is repeated with the other. A failure to note when certain lights appear can highlight a loss of peripheral vision in certain areas, allowing the ophthalmologist to investigate further. This test is especially useful in identifying issues caused by glaucoma.
Kinetic Visual Test
The last type of peripheral vision test, which also uses the same dedicated perimeter machine as the previous test. Here though, light moves in and out of your side vision, rather than appearing in one place and disappearing after. This approach allows a more accurate understanding of where the issues with peripheral vision begin in terms of the field of view, and are particularly useful for diagnosing retinal diseases and neuro ophthalmological issues.
Vision health is also related to your overall health too, so eating sensibly, getting plenty of exercise and living a healthy lifestyle in general can have a huge impact. Protecting your eyes is also part of that, but with many issues that cause temporary peripheral vision loss associated with general lack of health, making the effort to maintain a healthier lifestyle really can be the best approach for eye health too.
However, while taking care of yourself is great advice, with regular eye exams to identify issues early, you may still find problems that need treating. Tunnel vision is one of the more common eye diseases we suffer from, and as a result there is extensive medical understanding of the disease and its treatment.
In general, tunnel vision is treated by dealing with the underlying issue that is causing it. Whether that is glaucoma, retinal diseases and so on, by solving this issue in a large number of cases, the loss of peripheral vision is also resolved too. In a similar way, issues caused by strokes, hypertension, concussion and migraines tend to be temporary too, and as the underlying issue is dealt with, so the vision health issue will be too.
However, there are some cases where peripheral vision loss is permanent, and here the goal is to help patients manage their condition to have as minimal an impact as possible. The vision aids of the Acesight E-glasses series, such as Acesight and Acesight VR are able to provide help for people with peripheral vision loss. This kind of visual aid is equipped with the narrow mode function, which allows the user to move the screen to a suitable place, in order to fit the tunnel vision situation. More information about Acesight and Acesight VR E-glasses is available on the official website: https://www.acesight.com/. With a wide range of technology to help, peripheral vision problems can be managed effectively and allow those with 20/200 vision to maintain their lifestyles and independence.