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Peripheral Vision Loss: Causes, Testing & Treatment

Peripheral vision loss is categorized as the loss of side vision while central vision remains. It is sometimes referred to as tunnel vision

This type of vision loss is often associated with conditions like low vision, glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, carotid artery disease, and diabetic retinopathy. 

Blindness and vision loss are often preventable. Treatment for peripheral vision loss includes surgery, medication, and lifestyle modifications.

What Is Peripheral Vision Loss?

With peripheral vision loss, the total field of vision is narrowed, which can harm overall orientation. This often compromises mobility, the ability to see at night, and the ability to track movement. 

Loss of side vision can greatly affect quality of life.

The condition is often caused by underlying health problems in addition to eye conditions. It’s crucial to seek treatment for PVL and other eye problems as quickly as possible to preserve vision for as long as possible.

Causes of Peripheral Vision Loss

Loss of night vision and side vision can be early precursors of conditions that end up causing permanent vision loss and blindness. Generally, peripheral vision loss is caused by underlying health conditions.

For instance, retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a group of eye diseases that deteriorate the retina, the light-sensitive tissue layer located at the back of the eye. Retinitis pigmentosa slowly breaks down cells in the retina over time, which causes PVL and other forms of vision loss.

Glaucoma can also cause pressure from fluid buildup that results in PVL. Primary open-angle glaucoma, which is the most common form of glaucoma, usually develops slowly and without any symptoms. Initially, glaucoma most notably affects peripheral or side vision, but it can also result in central vision loss if left untreated.

Those who experience a stroke might experience loss of vision, particularly peripheral vision that occurs on one side of either or both eyes. Strokes will generally cause damage to one side of the brain, which can end up causing this neurological type of vision loss. Stokes can also result in scotoma, which is a partial loss of vision in some part of the visual field.

Visual blind spots can also be caused by glaucoma, inflammation, and other underlying eye and health conditions. Additional causes of peripheral vision loss include optic neuritis, optic nerve atrophy, compressive optic neuropathy, and retinal detachment.

Symptoms

Symptoms of peripheral vision loss include the following:

  • Deteriorating navigational skills (bumping into objects in familiar spaces) 
  • Loss of balance or falling
  • Difficulty navigating crowded spaces
  • Blindness at night
  • Difficulties driving 

Testing for Peripheral Vision Loss 

If you think you have peripheral vision loss, the first move is to see an eye doctor. They will test your vision and assess potential reasons behind any impairment. 

A doctor will give you a visual field test. This exam tests for any blind spots in your visual field as well as the total range of your visual field. If you have any peripheral vision loss, it will be evident on this test.

There are six different types of visual field tests, and your doctor will likely perform one or two of them. You can perform some at home on your own, but you’ll need to have a doctor perform tests and an assessment to get any diagnosis. 

Treatment for Peripheral Vision Loss

Peripheral vision loss can be treated in a variety of ways, ranging from corrective lenses to surgery. 

A low vision specialist can prescribe special eyewear or optical devices to help with permanent peripheral vision loss. For example, a prism lens can be added to an eyeglass prescription to help an individual potentially expand their field of vision.

People with glaucoma take prescribed medication regularly to control high eye pressure, and this can help to prevent future loss of vision. If medications are not taken, it can lead to permanent optic nerve damage, blind spots, and permanent vision loss.

Depending on the underlying cause of the peripheral vision loss, eye drops, lifestyle adjustments, and surgery may be applicable treatment options.

Can PVL Be Prevented?

In some instances, peripheral vision loss can be prevented, or its progression can be slowed.
Early detection and treatment of any kind of eye problem is the most effective way to prevent long-term or permanent vision loss.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that individuals receive a baseline eye disease screening at age 40. This can help to catch any eye conditions early. 

Anyone who is at risk for health conditions that involve vision loss or eye-related issues should remain under the care of an ophthalmologist. If you experience any level of peripheral vision loss, see an eye doctor promptly.

What to Do Next

Peripheral vision loss can be a symptom of a serious underlying health condition and should be addressed immediately to avoid permanent damage or loss of vision. 

It’s important to see an eye doctor to better understand what is causing your peripheral vision loss. They can adequately test you for peripheral vision loss and treat underlying causes accordingly. 

Peripheral Vision Loss FAQS

What is peripheral vision?

Peripheral vision is our side vision, which allows the eye to track and view objects that are not directly in front of us. Peripheral vision allows people to view objects around them without turning their heads.

What is peripheral vision loss?

Peripheral vision loss occurs when an individual’s peripheral vision, or side vision, is compromised due to damage or deterioration in the periphery of the eye. It involves narrowing of the visual field.

You may be able to see fine in front of you, but there are gaps or spots in what you can see to the sides. Some people say it is like looking through a tunnel.

What causes loss of peripheral vision?

It is often caused by underlying diseases like glaucoma, optic neuritis, retinitis pigmentosa, Stargardt disease, diabetic retinopathy, optic neuropathy, a compressed optic nerve head, stroke, or another health condition or eye disease.

Can injury or trauma cause peripheral vision loss? 

Yes, loss of peripheral vision can be caused by injury or trauma to the eye. Any sort of impact or brain damage can result in vision loss. Strokes that occur in the eye or brain can also cause severe vision loss or eye damage.

Can peripheral vision loss be prevented?

Loss of side vision can often be controlled, but symptoms may persist for months or even years. Healthy lifestyle changes can help to slow down peripheral vision loss. However, peripheral vision loss that occurs due to hereditary diseases like glaucoma cannot be reversed. 

Can my peripheral vision be restored?

Most commonly, peripheral vision loss is caused by low vision diseases or some type of injury. Depending on the circumstances and condition, your eye may or may not be able to heal itself. An eye doctor can examine your eyes and vision and give you an accurate idea of what to expect.

References

  1. Vision Loss, Peripheral (Side). (January 2021). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  2. Retinitis Pigmentosa. (March 2022). National Eye Institute.

  3. Glaucoma. (July 2021). American Optometric Association.

  4. Vision-Related Quality of Life in Adults With Severe peripheral Vision Loss: A Qualitative Interview Study. (January 2021). Journal of Patient-Reported Outcomes.

  5. What Do Patients With Glaucoma See? Visual Symptoms Reported by Patients With Glaucoma. (October 2014). The American Journal of Medical Sciences.

  6. Eyes and Stroke: The Visual Aspects of Cerebrovascular Disease. (July 2017). Stroke and Vascular Neurology.

  7. Optic Neuritis. (October 2019). Continuum: Lifelong Learning in Neurology.

  8. Central and Peripheral Visual Impairment and the Risk of Falls and Falls With Injury. (February 2010). Ophthalmology.

  9. Bilateral Central and Peripheral Vision Loss in an Otherwise Asymptomatic Woman. (May 2021). JAMA Ophthalmology.

  10. Clinical Approach to Vision Loss: A Review for General Physicians. (March 2022). Clinical Medicine Journal.

  11. Mobility Improvement of Patients With Peripheral Visual Field Losses Using Novel See-Through Digital Spectacles. (May 2020). PLOS ONE.

  12. Visual Field Test. (March 2022). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  13. Peripheral Prisms for Visual Field Expansion: A Translational Journey. (October 2021). Optometry and Vision Science.

  14. Get an Eye Disease Screening at 40. (April 2022). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  15. Dual Tasking and Balance in Those With Central and Peripheral Vision Loss. (October 2013). Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.

Last Updated August 9, 2022

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