By Matthew Wilkening, O.D.
Maybe you notice yourself bumping into things a little more often, or having trouble seeing in dim light. Or maybe it seems as if you're looking at the world through a narrow tube. This is what is referred to as tunnel vision. If you're noticing these, you might be experiencing peripheral vision loss. While some vision loss is common as you age, peripheral vision loss is often a side effect of conditions that need to be taken seriously.
Peripheral Vision Is Important
Stare straight ahead of you. Now, without moving your head or eyes, be aware of the things existing in your field of vision to the left and right. Being able to see things outside of your direct field of vision is peripheral vision. While central field of vision is obviously the most important, research has found that peripheral vision is essential as well - and for surprising reasons. Studies found that peripheral vision was the sense most closely associated with giving your brain the information it needs to break down what type of scene you're looking at. For example, peripheral vision is important in helping your brain determine whether you’re looking at a beach, a mountain, traffic, or a field.
What Causes Peripheral Vision Loss?
There are many causes for loss of peripheral vision. Unfortunately, many of them are not good. Glaucoma, occlusions, detached retinas, strokes, brain damage, neurological issues, compressed optic nerves, concussions, and other head injuries, as well as retinitis pigmentosa are all potential causes of peripheral vision loss.
With many of these situations, having your eyes checked sooner rather than later is the best medical decision you can make. If your vision loss is the result of a serious medical condition – like a stroke or head injury – seek emergency care immediately. Your eye doctor will likely give you several eye tests to assess your field of vision is and whether or not you have lost peripheral vision.
Unlike other vision problems, peripheral vision loss cannot be treated with glasses or contacts. There are lenses that can be added to your eyeglass prescription that can somewhat expand your field of vision, but that is a temporary fix. Because the causes of peripheral vision loss are so varied, there is not a one-size-fits-all treatment plan to fix it. Sometimes, it cannot be fixed; occasionally it can. If the issue resides in a problem like glaucoma, sometimes eye drops and other preventive measures can help retain your vision for longer periods of time.
If you’re experiencing peripheral vision loss, the best course of action is to make an appointment with your optometrist or ophthalmologist and find out what's causing the problem. After he or she examines you and determines the cause of the vision loss, they will be able to recommend a plan of action for your specific health needs.
Dr. Matthew Wilkening is an optometrist at Kelsey-Seybold’s Meyerland Plaza Clinic. He’s accepting new patients and welcomes the opportunity to help patients maintain or improve their vision. He’s a certified Therapeutic Optometrist and Optometric Glaucoma specialist.
Written by Cindy Shanley