Peripheral vision loss (PVL) occurs when you cannot see objects unless they are right in front of you. This is also known as tunnel vision.
Side vision loss can create obstacles in your daily life, often affecting your general orientation, the way you move, and the quality of your night vision.
PVL can be caused by eye conditions and other health problems. It is important to seek treatment immediately, as it is often impossible to restore lost vision. Seeking early treatment can help prevent further vision loss.
Several underlying health conditions can cause PVL. Migraine causes temporary PVL, while other conditions put you at risk for permanent PVL. You may experience PVL over time, with only part of your side vision affected at first.
Some causes of PVL include:
This eye condition causes pressure in the eye due to fluid buildup and directly impacts peripheral vision. If left untreated, it can affect the optic nerve and cause irreversible blindness.
This inherited condition will gradually cause PVL and affect night vision and even central vision as your retina deteriorates. There is no cure for this rare condition, but you may be able to plan for vision loss if diagnosed early.
If your retina is damaged, you may develop a blind spot in your vision, known as a scotoma. It can be caused by glaucoma, inflammation, and other eye conditions like macular degeneration.
A stroke can cause permanent vision loss on one side of each eye. This is because a stroke damages one side of the brain. This is a neurological type of vision loss because your eyes still work, but your brain cannot process what you see. A stroke can also lead to a scotoma.
This condition occurs if you have diabetes and your retina is damaged by high blood sugar which inflames or constricts blood vessels in the eye.
Migraine is a type of headache that can cause vision changes. The American Migraine Foundation reports that 25-30% of migraine sufferers experience visual changes during a migraine with aura. This may include temporary PVLs.
PVL can be temporary or permanent, depending on the condition causing the vision loss.
Permanent PVL can be caused by:
- retinitis pigmentosa
- diabetic retinopathy
Temporary PVL can occur with:
You may experience a range of PVL severity. Certain conditions will begin to distort the outermost angles of your vision and work inward over time.
You may start noticing PVL once you can no longer see 40 degrees or more of your side vision. If you cannot see beyond 20 degrees of your field of vision, you may be considered legally blind.
You may notice PVL gradually or all of a sudden, depending on its cause. Some symptoms of PVL may include:
- bump into objects
- difficulty navigating crowded spaces like in malls or at events
- being unable to see well in the dark, also known as night blindness
- have trouble driving at night and even during the day
You can have PVL in only one eye or in both eyes. You should discuss your symptoms with a doctor to determine if it is safe for you to drive or engage in other high-risk activities with PVL.
Here are other symptoms you may experience with PVL if you have any of the following conditions:
- Glaucoma. You may not notice the symptoms of this condition, so it is essential that you see your doctor regularly. Glaucoma will first affect the edges of your vision.
- Retinitis pigmentosa. The first symptom you may experience from this condition is difficulty seeing at night. The condition will then affect the outermost angles of your vision and then move towards your central vision.
- Scotom. The main symptom of this condition is noticing a blind spot at a certain angle of your vision. It can affect central or peripheral vision.
- Stroke. You may not even realize you have PVL on one side of your vision right away. You may first notice this if you glance in a mirror and only see one side of your face.
- Migraine. Vision changes typically occur for 10 to 30 minutes in both eyes during a migraine attack.
- Diabetic retinopathy. Symptoms of this condition include blurred vision, blank spots in your field of vision, and difficulty seeing at night, among others. This condition affects both eyes.
In many cases of PVL, your side vision may not be restored. It is important to see an eye doctor regularly to monitor and diagnose conditions that may permanently affect your PVL.
Your doctor may be able to suggest some lifestyle changes you can make if you have PVL. This includes training in how to visually scan the world around you using the vision you have.
Some current research is looking at the use of glasses that have a prism that can increase your side vision if you have PVL.
Your doctor will recommend treatments for the conditions that cause PVL and to help slow vision loss:
- Glaucoma. You may need to use eye drops or another form of medication, as well as undergo surgery to prevent the glaucoma from getting worse.
- Retinitis pigmentosa. There is no cure or treatment for this condition, but your doctor may recommend assistive devices when your vision deteriorates or taking vitamin A to slow vision loss.
- Scotom. You might consider adding bright lights in rooms and making your screen or printed reading materials bigger to help you see better.
- Stroke. It may not be possible to treat PVL caused by this condition, but your doctor may recommend vision screening and the use of prisms on glasses to help you navigate.
- Migraine. Migraine is treated differently from person to person. You can use a combination of medications to use during a migraine attack and to prevent them. Your doctor may also recommend certain lifestyle changes to prevent their occurrence.
- Diabetic retinopathy. Treatment for this condition may include medication to control your blood sugar and blood pressure and to slow the development of vision loss. Surgery may also be an option.
You should seek medical attention immediately if you notice PVL. You should also see an eye doctor regularly to monitor potential conditions that could impact your vision. If you catch a disease in its early stages, your doctor may be able to prevent significant vision loss.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that you see a doctor before age 40 to get tested for various eye conditions to prevent the development of unwanted symptoms like PVL.
PVL and other forms of vision loss can have a significant impact on your daily life over time. Keeping a positive attitude and finding resources to help you are great first steps in coping with vision loss.
Here are some other ways to live with vision loss:
- Talk to your doctor about ways to treat and adjust to life with PVL.
- Discuss your condition with family and friends and allow them to be supportive.
- Practice self-care by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and engaging in stress-reducing activities to maintain your overall physical and mental health.
- Modify your home to help you navigate and prevent falls: You can install grab bars in areas where you’re more likely to fall and eliminate clutter and other objects that might get in your way as you walk around.
- Add extra light to dimly lit rooms.
- See a counselor or join a peer support group to discuss living with vision loss.
Several conditions can cause PVL, and it is important to perform regular preventive eye exams to prevent vision loss. If you ignore the symptoms, you could experience more vision loss over time.
See a doctor to discuss your symptoms. Getting preventive or early treatment can help you control other complications of PVL. If you have a condition that has caused permanent PVL, talk to your doctor about ways to cope with your vision loss.