How does peripheral vision loss affect daily life?
At a Glance:
1. What is the peripheral vision loss?
2. What are the signs of peripheral vision loss?
3. What are the causes of peripheral vision loss?
4. What to expect during the doctor’s appointment?
5. How is peripheral vision loss diagnosed?
6. What are the treatments for peripheral vision loss?
7. How to prevent peripheral vision loss?
Imagine covering one of your eyes and trying to see. Your field of vision will be drastically reduced, and you will not be able to see anything on that side. Now, imagine living like that on a daily basis. It will change the way you see objects, how you perceive the world, and even affect mobility!
The Bollywood blockbuster, War, is a more recent insight on what it looks like to live with peripheral vision loss. However, it focuses on only the loss of right peripheral vision. Several people live with complete peripheral vision loss. Thus, their range of vision is severely impaired. They only have access to a constricted, tunnel-like field of vision (as pictured above). Peripheral vision loss is also referred to as tunnel vision.
What is the peripheral vision loss?
Peripheral vision loss refers to the loss of the wide-angle field of vision, which occurs even if the central vision is perfectly fine. Peripheral vision allows us to see things from the corner of our eyes. Thus, we can see things without moving our heads or turning around.
What are the signs of peripheral vision loss?
There may be several symptoms that patients with peripheral vision loss begin experiencing with the onset of the condition. These can involve an impact on vision or even the whole body. Some of the early signs may be:
- Change in the size of pupils.
- Loss of night vision.
- Swelling or soreness in one or both the eyes.
- Sensitivity to light
- Chronic headaches
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Impaired mobility due to loss of vision.
It is important to visit the doctor if you experience the symptoms listed above as it may be indicative of the onset of peripheral vision loss. If left untreated, the condition may become progressively worse and reduce one’s quality of life.
What are the causes of peripheral vision loss?
Peripheral vision loss is likely to be a side-effect of other medical conditions. Some of them are:
- Glaucoma: Due to glaucoma, the fluid pressure in the eye increases, which can cause severe damage to the optic nerve, which worsens over time. This may result in peripheral field defect. Over time, a person may lose his or her eyesight completely. Vision loss can be prevented if it is diagnosed and treated in the early stages.
- Retinitis pigmentosa: The genetic condition damages the retina, the part of the eye that senses light. It is a progressive disorder that worsens over time. It may initially cause loss of night vision or color vision, progress to peripheral vision loss, and ultimately result in complete blindness.
- Eye strokes (occlusions): Retinal artery occlusion is caused when there is a clot in the retina’s blood vessels. Since it interrupts the blood flow in the retina, it can cause permanent damage if left untreated. The damage extends to but is not limited to peripheral vision loss.
- Detached retina: The retina is held to the back of the eye with supporting tissue. When it gets detached from the tissue, it is a potentially dangerous occurrence that might cause loss of sight. The retina cannot function properly while it is detached. Therefore, it needs to be corrected to avoid permanent vision loss.
- Concussions: A hit, bump, or blow to the head can cause concussions, which disrupt the normal functioning of the brain. They may be followed by changes in the person’s consciousness, memory, sight, etc. This includes peripheral vision loss.
- Diabetic retinopathy: Diabetic eye disease occurs when the retina is damaged due to diabetes. The condition damages the blood vessels in the retina, which causes vision distortion due to fluid leakage.
- Pituitary tumors: Pituitary tumors have a “mass effect” on the optic chiasm (X-shaped structure formed by the optic nerves). The compression of the optic chiasm leads to peripheral vision loss.
What to expect during the doctor’s appointment?
If you experience loss of vision, then seek medical help immediately. You can either visit the ophthalmologist or the emergency department.
During the session, the following steps are generally followed:
Inquiry regarding medical history and symptoms:
The doctor will gather all the details pertaining to the condition, such as when the vision loss occurred, how long it has lasted, whether it has progressed, or whether it affects only one eye. Some symptoms the doctor may look out for are eye pain, floaters (black or gray spots drifting across the vision), distorted color vision, etc. This helps them to determine the risk factors that are present due to habits or other pre-existing medical conditions.
The ophthalmologist may check:
- The sharpness of vision
- Color vision
- Pressure in the eye
- The response of the eye to a moving object
The examination may also include a physical examination that evaluates the skin and the nervous system.
How is peripheral vision loss diagnosed?
The ophthalmologist may request further diagnostic tests based on the findings from the eye examination. Depending on the disorders suspected, the tests will vary. Some of them may be:
- Ultrasonography: It can be recommended if the retina is not clearly visible during the eye examination.
- Gadolinium-enhanced MRI: It enables the visualization of optic nerve swelling so as to confirm the diagnosis for patients with eye pain and other related symptoms.
- Blood tests: Certain parameters such as Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) and C-reactive protein levels are measured, especially for people over the age of 50.
What are the treatments for peripheral vision loss?
The best way to treat tunnel vision is by slowing down the condition(s) that causes it. Some steps that can be followed are:
- If the patient has glaucoma, it is essential to take preventive measures. These may include proper administration of eye drops and taking the prescribed glaucoma medication to control eye pressure. Glaucoma can lead to permanent peripheral vision loss if left untreated.
- In some cases, a prism can be added to the patient’s eyeglasses, which help to extend the field of vision. Other specially-designed eyewear or optical instruments can also help people to overcome mobility issues caused due to tunnel vision.
- Vision loss spurred by retinitis pigmentosa may be slowed down with Vitamin A.
- People with normal vision can also use certain techniques that train them to see better in their peripheral field vision.
How to prevent peripheral vision loss?
Certain lifestyle changes may be helpful in preventing vision loss:
- Regular exercise reduces the pressure in the eye, reducing the chance of developing tunnel vision. It also helps to reduce blood pressure, thus further reducing the risk.
- Eat food that is rich in vitamin A and good for healthy vision, such as carrots.
- Protect your eyes with goggles or protective glasses while playing sports.
- To prevent the chances of developing glaucoma, get a regular eye exam every 2-4 years after the age of 40.
Peripheral vision loss means the loss of wide-angle field vision with the retention of central vision. It is generally caused due to conditions such as glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, or concussions. One should consult the doctor immediately if one suspects loss of vision. It is important to treat the condition from the beginning as it can lead to complications if left untreated and severely reduce the quality of life. Peripheral vision loss can also be prevented through appropriate lifestyle changes.
Always take preventive measures and enjoy being in the pink of health!
- Brady, Christopher J & Division, Retina. MSD Manual Customer Version, Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp, June 2018, https://www.msdmanuals.com/home/eye-disorders/symptoms-of-eye-disorders/vision-loss,-sudden. Accessed 11 October 2019.
- Felman, Adam. “Diabetic retinopathy: Causes, symptoms, and treatments”. Medical News Today, Healthline Media UK, 25 August 2017, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/183417.php. Accessed 10 October 2019.
- Haddrill, Marilyn & Heiting, Gary. “Peripheral vision loss (tunnel vision): Causes and treatments”. All About Vision, January 2017, https://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/peripheral-vision.htm. Accessed 10 October 2019.
- “Peripheral vision loss: causes and treatments”. WebMD, 15 November 2017, https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/common-causes-peripheral-vision-loss#1. Accessed 20 October 2019.
- “What is peripheral vision and what to do if you notice you’re losing it”. Ideal Eyecare, https://idealeyecare2020.com/what-is-peripheral-vision-and-what-to-do-if-you-notice-youre-losing-it/. Accessed 11 October 2019.