Loss of Peripheral Vision | Tunnel Vision Causes and Treatments – Eye Love Cares
While loss of peripheral vision can be sudden, it is often a condition that slowly worsens over time. You may have no symptoms at all or start to notice that you are tripping more often, are unable to navigate in the dark, or even have trouble driving.
Peripheral vision is needed to function properly in everyday life instances. Whether you are crossing the street, driving a car or working your nine-to-five, chances are you subconsciously use your peripheral vision multiple times a day.
Sometimes, your peripheral vision is diminished or hindered. If you experience your vision getting narrower and narrower and you are unable to see past the center of your vision without moving your head, you may be experiencing tunnel vision.
Tunnel vision is a condition that is caused by a damaged optic nerve, retina, or brain function. This can be caused by age, trauma, or disease. Although tunnel vision can happen at any age, it is more common in elderly people.
While some tunnel vision is temporary, most cases are permanent. It is important to see an eye doctor if you experience any changes in your vision. An eye doctor can examine your eyes and determine a proper diagnosis and swift treatment.
Taking steps to improve your eye health will help you improve your vision and affect your body’s health in a positive way. General exercise, eye specific exercises, and a clean diet can all help you keep your vision in check.
Related: Visual Acuity: What is 20/15 Vision?
Peripheral vision is important to live our daily lives. Peripheral vision allows us to see in every direction without turning our head in the direction of the movement or even moving our eyes.
Any loss of peripheral vision can be a sign of specific eye conditions. It is important to stay vigilant and talk with your eye doctor if you ever notice a decrease in your peripheral vision. There are many symptoms of peripheral vision loss that should be very noticeable and different from your everyday vision.
Tunnel vision is aptly named for the symptom you encounter. If you are experiencing tunnel vision, it will seem like you are looking through a small circle directly in front of your eyes. You are unable to see in all directions around that small circle. Tunnel vision prevents you from having peripheral vision, or vision out to the sides.
Tunnel vision can be serious if not treated quickly by an eye doctor. If you suspect you have tunnel vision, especially if it has been getting worse over time, do not hesitate to see your eye doctor for an exam.
Getting a yearly eye exam will help catch issues like tunnel vision before they become irreversible. You should also let your eye doctor know if you have a family history of glaucoma or other retinal issues. Those that are at higher risk of developing glaucoma should regularly see an eye doctor when they reach their 40s.
Other symptoms of peripheral vision loss include the inability to see in dim light and problems running into things while walking. You may also see halos around lights, have sensitivity to light, irritation to the eye area including redness, swelling, or soreness and even an unusual pupil size. On rare occasions, you may experience nausea, vomiting, or headaches when loss of peripheral vision occurs.
Most tunnel vision happens slowly over time. If you notice tunnel vision that happens suddenly, see your eye doctor or go to emergency room immediately. This sudden loss of peripheral vision may indicate a detached retina, which should be treated as soon as possible to prevent permanent vision loss.
There are many causes of peripheral vision loss. While some are from underlying diseases or eye trauma, eye surgery and even damage to the brain can cause tunnel vision.
One of the most common causes of peripheral vision loss is glaucoma. Glaucoma allows fluid and pressure to build up in the eye over time. This extra pressure damages the optic nerve. When this starts to happen, you will notice a decrease in your peripheral vision, but this is often not noticed until the condition is severe. If you regularly see an eye doctor, they should be able to catch your glaucoma early and provide treatment options. Finding glaucoma in its early stages can prevent loss of peripheral vision. Untreated glaucoma can lead to tunnel vision, blindness, and even additional health issues.
Related: Narrow Angle Glaucoma
Cataracts are caused by proteins in the lens clumping together. When the proteins clump together, they create an opaque, cloudy area on your natural lens.
While you may be destined to develop cataracts later in life, practicing looking into the distance on a regular basis may help prevent the onset of cataracts. This simple exercise allows your eye lens to exercise its full mobility.
It is recommended that you look into the distance for around 10 minutes, three times a day. Completing this exercise helps combat the eye strain from looking near. This is especially helpful if you spend a lot of time on your phone, your computer, or watching TV.
Eye strokes, or occlusions, block blood flow to the eye, including the optic nerve. This lack of blood flow can result in loss of peripheral vision.
Damage to the brain through a stroke or other disease causes a loss of blood to the brain. Strokes and traumatic injuries can result in damage to the area of the brain where images are processed, which creates blind spots. When loss of blood to the brain occurs, it can cause substantial loss of peripheral vision.
Retinitis pigmentosa is a rare genetic disorder in which damage to the retina can cause tunnel vision. The retina is the part of the eye that helps you sense color and light. Over time, damage to the retina will result in night blindness and color blindness. If you develop this rare condition, you will most likely notice a loss of peripheral vision by your teens or early adulthood. Although retinitis pigmentosa can be diagnosed at any age, most develop the condition early and are legally blind by their 40s.
Medical studies have shown that vitamin A may help slow down blindness in retinitis pigmentosa cases. Your eye doctor can offer support on how to live with low vision and suggest additional ways to slow down the disease.
A detached retina is a very serious condition that needs to be treated right away. Symptoms includes seeing light flashes, floaters across the eye, and a shadow that covers part of your visual field. You can be at a higher risk for a detached retina if you are over age 40, have a family history, or have extreme nearsightedness, previous eye disease, trauma, or eye surgery.
Compressed Optic Nerve
The optic nerve is responsible for sending signals from the eyes to the brain. If any damage or compression occurs to the optic nerve, it can cause tunnel vision. This can happen through trauma or disease, such as a tumor compressing the optic nerve.
Neurological damage can cause complete, central, as well as peripheral vision loss. The amount of damage varies with the severity of the neurological impairment. People may also suffer from blurry sight but be able to see both centrally and peripherally, while others will have problems seeing clear in dim light or driving at night.
While special glasses or contacts may repair some forms of tunnel vision, neurological damage cannot be repaired through the eye alone. The damage goes deeper into how the brain processes vision.
Fortunately, there are brain therapies available that can retrain your mind to improve your vision. Neuroplasticity is your brain’s natural ability to overcome injury. Therapy allows your brain to adjust to the changes you are experiencing and create new pathways and thought patterns to get closer to the way your body functioned before the trauma.
If you have recently been through a brain injury or stroke, make sure you request a visual field examination. This exam will test your visual field. You may not realize after trauma that you cannot use 100% of your visual field. Completing the test will give you a good idea on how well you are recovering. It is important that your eyes are as healthy as possible to help your brain and other parts of your body fully recover.
Related: Visual Acuity: What is 20/20 Vision?
Concussions alone are scary, but they can also affect your vision. Vision problems after going through the trauma of a concussion are as high as 69 percent. Fortunately, if you are diligent about looking for health problems after a concussion, you can treat your tunnel vision and loss of peripheral vision with vision therapy.
Concussions can damage your functional vision. Functional vision affects your eye focusing, tracking, and teaming. Functional vision is used in your daily life and is needed to gather information and relay it to live and work.
Eye focusing allows you to shift between objects at different distances. This is especially noticeable when you are trying to focus clearly on an object that is very near to you.
Eye teaming allows you to focus on an object with both eyes simultaneously. The brain combines one image from each eye for accurate depth perception.
Eye tracking is the ability to focus on a moving object and switch between objects.
Concussions are very common among athletes but can also occur from common accidents such as tripping while walking or being involved in an automobile collision.
If you have recently been diagnosed with or suffered a concussion, you may have the following vision symptoms: double vision, problems focusing, eye tracking, eye strain and fatigue, headaches, inaccurate eye alignment, light sensitivity, and blurry vision up close.
A concussion can also cause vision problems that deal with the brain. You may experience balance or posture issues, memory loss, lack of depth perception, disorientation, or even poor handwriting.
Treatment for vision problems after a concussion will vary based on your doctor’s diagnosis and recommendations. One treatment involves getting prescription lenses that can improve your vision and help with eye strain. Traumatic brain injuries like concussions may benefit from a therapeutic light therapy called syntonics. Syntonics is non-invasive and allows the autonomic nervous system to rebalance, restoring day-to-day vision.
Vision therapy is also a worthwhile treatment after a head injury. It involves treatments in your doctor’s office and at home. These exercises can improve your visual skills.
A high level of adrenaline caused by stress, anxiety, or anger can result in temporary tunnel vision. Stress can cause a sudden dip in blood pressure which can be the culprit for temporary loss of peripheral vision.
Alcohol and Drugs
Too much alcohol or an overdose of drugs can also cause temporary tunnel vision. Once the condition is treated or the substance is no longer consumed, peripheral vision loss will usually disappear on its own without further treatment.
If you currently suffer from migraine headaches, it is possible that you have experienced temporary tunnel vision. Tunnel vision in migraines can affect one eye or both. While you may experience tunnel vision along with pain from your migraine headaches, the tunnel vision should dissipate as your migraine does. If the loss of peripheral vision does not go away, seek medical help immediately as it may be a sign of a bigger eye issue.
Migraines focused in the eye area or ocular migraines do not have a definitive medical cause. It is theorized that these types of migraines that result in temporary loss of peripheral vision can be caused by blood vessels spasms in the retina or retina nerve cell changes. Ocular migraines are not treated since they go away on their own.
To properly diagnose you with tunnel vision, an eye doctor will perform a thorough exam. Some of the tests may include automated perimetry, confrontation visual fields, and the tangent screen. These visual field tests will check for blank spots in your vision, spots that you may not even realize are a problem area in your vision.
In all these tests, your peripheral vision will be tested. In automated perimetry, you sit in front of a dome, focusing on an object in the center of the dome. You are required to press a button when you notice flashes of light while focusing on the center object and not moving your head.
A confrontation visual field is a simple test that involves covering one of your eyes and staring straight ahead with the other. While sitting in front of the doctor, you must let the doctor know when you can see the doctor’s hand moving in front of you.
Tangent screen testing sits you three feet from a screen that has a target in the middle. While focusing exclusively on the target, you respond to the doctor as soon as you can see a moving object within your peripheral vision.
If you fail any or all of these tests, your eye doctor may ask you to do additional testing to confirm or rule out glaucoma and other eye diseases. If you are experiencing true tunnel vision, it is important that your eye doctors determine the root cause as it will continue to get worse over time.
It is common for an annual eye exam to include a peripheral vision test (even if you do not have any symptoms of tunnel vision). Your eye doctor can compare the tests year after year to see if there are any changes in your vision that may need addressed.
The level of treatment can only be determined after the cause of your tunnel vision has been diagnosed. Most causes of peripheral vision loss can be reversed if you see an eye care professional promptly after symptoms start to occur.
Glaucoma is a serious condition that can lead to permanent loss of peripheral vision or even blindness if left untreated. After an eye care professional diagnoses you with glaucoma, you must consistently treat your glaucoma with prescribed eye drops or surgery to lower your eye pressure. The eye drops will help lower the pressure on your eye and aid in preventing optic nerve damage and the addition of blind spots.
If you suffer from permanent tunnel vision, there are currently no glasses or contacts that can help you regain your field of vision. In some cases, people can benefit from prism lenses, an add-on to prescription eyeglasses. These prism lenses can expand your side view in certain cases.
Prism eyeglasses benefit those with peripheral vision loss by helping them to avoid collisions with other people while walking. The specialized prism lenses displace images off-axis, allowing the image to be placed in the exact spot that a person struggling with peripheral vision loss can see.
For those with peripheral vision loss that can still see well with their center vision, prism lenses can expand their field of vision. While commercial prism lenses are currently limited to a 30-degree angle, scientists are working on a 45-degree angle model that will further prevent collisions with people suffering from tunnel vision.
Prism lenses have also been found to be effective in people with binocular diplopia (also known as double vision or cross-eyed).
The advancement of prism lenses is welcomed by glaucoma patients as well as other people dealing with loss of peripheral vision. This treatment will help these people become more independent and maybe even work and venture outside the home on their own more.
In some cases of brain damage, researchers have found that vision therapy can regain a portion of blind spots.
You can also use vision therapy if you are interested in preventing tunnel vision or just want to improve your peripheral vision.
Permanent Tunnel Vision
If you have been diagnosed with permanent tunnel vision, you should request a consultation with a low vision specialist. A low vision specialist can provide you with options such as specialized eyewear or optical devices that can help you continue to live and work on your own.
While preventing loss of peripheral vision is not possible, if you are at a higher risk for getting tunnel vision, there are steps you can take to help:
- If you have a family history of glaucoma, it is important to get a comprehensive eye exam when you are over 40 and to get the comprehensive eye exam every two-to-four years. Your risk of glaucoma increases as you age, and it is also more prominent in African Americans.
- Flying in an airplane may increase your risk of developing tunnel vision. Air pollution that contains oils and hydraulic fluid can also cause tunnel vision issues.
- It is important to note that peripheral vision loss may affect your ability to drive safely. A low vision specialist can help evaluate your peripheral vision loss and whether you will be able to qualify for your state’s driver’s license.
- Anything you can do to prevent eye trauma, such as wearing protective goggles when you are active or sunglasses when you are outside, is helpful to keep your eyes healthy.
- Exercise also helps keep your eyes healthy by reducing the pressure on your eyes.
- Properly treating chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes also aids in preventing tunnel vision.
- Peripheral vision is very important to athletes. Peripheral vision is processed by the brain 25 percent faster than our main or central vision. This can be easily tested by trying to focus on balancing on one foot. Try balancing on one foot with your eyes open. It should be fairly easy to balance, especially if you are able to focus on an object in front of you. Now try to balance on one foot with your eyes closed. Without your peripheral vision to help balance you, it is very hard to not wobble back and forth. It is amazing how much harder it is to maintain your balance with your eyes closed.
- Focusing on peripheral vision can also allow us to meditate. Get into a comfortable seated position and while looking as far as you can to the side(s), take some deep breaths. You will quickly notice that your stress level will decrease, and you might even notice a decline in pain or anxiety.
While you cannot prevent the peripheral vision loss, especially if it is caused by glaucoma or related diseases, you can still be proactive and slow or stop additional damage. Lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise can greatly help keep your eyes and entire body working properly.
Prevention is key to keeping your eyes as healthy as possible. It is very important to get an annual eye exam, whether you have pre-existing eye conditions or your eyes are perfectly healthy. Having an eye doctor look at your eyes in person can help the doctor find eye disease early and properly diagnose any conditions you may be starting to experience. The eye doctor should also give you a chance to ask any questions you may have, communicate any symptoms, or explain any eye discomfort.
If you have a family history of glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, or macular degeneration, your eye doctor may ask to monitor your eyes more than once a year. More frequent eye visits are critical to tracking changes in your eyes. Tracking this information can give your eye doctor a clear indication on how quickly your condition is progressing.
Some eye conditions are hereditary and other members of your family may be destined to encounter the same symptoms and eye disease(s). An eye doctor can determine if your family members are at a greater risk for certain eye diseases.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your eye doctor immediately: sudden and/or excruciating eye pain, double vision, flashes or halos of light, sensitivity to light, eye swelling, irritation or sensitivity, floaters, or a general change in vision.
Even if you are not experiencing specific eye or vision problems, the health issues you are having could still be linked to your eyes. If you are having difficulty moving around or walking, missing objects when trying to pick them up, squinting, unable to distinguish colors, or even doing your normal activities like watching TV or hobbies differently, it’s time to see the eye doctor.
People value their sight, and when it becomes compromised it can be scary.
Fortunately, technology is helping to make vision issues manageable. While you may have to wear special glasses, use eye drops, or even have surgery, tunnel vision can be treated and even improved.
Tunnel vision, or peripheral vision loss, is a common condition with many different causes. If you suspect you have tunnel vision, contact your eye doctor right away to get a proper diagnosis and ease your mind.
Do not put off going to the eye doctor. Your sight is important, and any delay can cause even greater vision problems, some of which may not be reversible.