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Peripheral Vision

peripheral_vision_blind_spotsPeripheral vision is what we see to the side of us while looking forward. For instance, if you are focused on a movie or speaker onstage and movement in the audience distracts you. Click here for a 90-second video explanation and test how good your peripheral vision is!

At what point did you lose the ability to see your fingers wiggling? Were you able to see them in a full half circle and further, or did you lose sight of them before you probably should have? People who have difficulty seeing peripherally are often said to have “tunnel vision,” because they are limited in their ability to see objects to the side of them. Symptoms may include:

  • Seeing “floaters”, gray specks, flashes, shadows or blind spots in the field of vision
  • Poor night vision and trouble seeing in dim light
  • Unsafe driving because of the inability to see cars or pedestrians from the sides
  • Surprise when a person or animal approaches from the side
  • Mobility issues due to trouble navigating around objects or up and down stairs
  • Poor sports skills because of the inability to see from all angles

Poor peripheral vision is sometimes mistaken for ADHD because it can affect reading, writing and social skills. To read, our eyes must be able to track words across a page. A person with tracking problems cannot locate the next group of words in his peripheral vision to coordinate with the current group of words being read in his central vision. This leads to eyes jerking around the page, going back and forth between lines, skipping words or repeating them. It limits comprehension and adds frustration to reading, producing a short attention span, which is then often misdiagnosed as ADHD.

Another common hindrance of peripheral vision is when a person’s eyes don’t function together as a team. If the eyes don’t work together simultaneously, they send varying images to the brain, causing confusion, blurred vision, poor depth perception and a lack of comprehension for what is being seen. Most individuals don’t realize their eyes aren’t working together, causing them to sometimes shut down their peripheral vision subconsciously in an effort to block out at least one conflicting image.

Both of these vision problems, as well as others which contribute to peripheral vision issues, can be diagnosed by a developmental optometrist and improved with vision therapy, individualized programs that encourage the eyes to work as they should. These problems are normally not detected in a regular eye exam, which tests only basic vision aspects.

Problems with peripheral vision can also be caused by certain conditions, such as:

  • Concussions or head injuries
  • Glaucoma onset, which can lead to blindness if untreated
  • Detached retina, considered an emergency
  • Optic neuritis or inflammation of the optic nerve, a possible symptom of multiple sclerosis
  • Eye strokes or blood vessel blockage
  • Rare genetic disease
  • Infection, sinusitis, auto-immune disorders, certain medications
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Toxins such as alcohol and tobacco
  • Neurological problems

Children with neurological issues may have a restricted field of peripheral vision, yet pass a general visual acuity test, which checks only central vision. These children often experience developmental delays and have difficulties with mobility, reading & spatial awareness.

Some clues a child may have restricted peripheral vision include:

  • Bumping into or tripping over objects in the lower field of vision
  • Trouble navigating stairs
  • Turning or tilting head while reading
  • Placing a finger on the text to maintain focus while reading
  • Surprise when approached from the side

The health of your peripheral vision should not be ignored. It is best to have an eye doctor, such as a developmental optometrist, examine your eyes for signs of disease, as well as administer a vision field test to identify any blind spots in your peripheral vision. A developmental evaluation can determine if there are tracking issues, eye teaming troubles or other vision problems causing peripheral vision restrictions.

Diseases must be treated as soon as possible to prevent further damage. With certain types of peripheral vision loss, a lens called a “prism” can be added to an eyeglass prescription to expand the field of view. With many diagnoses, vision therapy can be beneficial to help regain some or all vision loss.

If you have concerns about your peripheral vision, please contact us! We have experience in diagnosing all of the above-mentioned eye diseases, as well as success with vision therapy programs improving peripheral vision for children and adults alike.