Tunnel Vision - Loss of Peripheral Vision

Tunnel vision

Definition: The term "tunnel vision" is used to describe a constricted field of vision in which a person retains their central vision, but has a lack of peripheral vision. Vision is good straight ahead but vision to the sides is limited. Also referred to as a "tubular field" by eye doctors, tunnel vision is much like looking through a small tube. People with tunnel vision often have a difficult time navigating in dim lighting, such as in a dark movie theater.

Causes of Tunnel Vision

Many conditions can lead to tunnel vision. Blood loss to certain parts of the brain can sometimes lead to tunnel vision. Tunnel vision could also be caused by a tumor pressing on the optic nerve. Certain eye diseases can result in tunnel vision. Retinitis pigmentosa is a serious inherited eye disease that can lead to tunnel vision and possibly total blindness. Glaucoma, a disease of the optic nerve caused by higher than normal eye pressure, can also be a cause. 

Although stroke and retinal detachment can cause restricted visual fields, true tunnel vision is most often caused by severe glaucoma and retinitis pigmentosa. Stress and other psychological problems can also cause a tunnel vision effect. Brain trauma and optic nerve problems such as optic neuritis can also cause a severely constricted visual field.

Is Tunnel Vision an Emergency?

Any type of vision loss or visual disturbance can be quite alarming.

 Extremely stressful situations can sometimes lead to tunnel vision. For example, a person's visual field may be compromised during an episode of a panic attack. Certain extreme sports can also cause the condition to appear, as well as certain jobs such as fighter pilots. High acceleration has been attributed as a cause of tunnel vision.

Because vision becomes extremely limited, sudden onset of tunnel vision can be very dangerous and should be treated as a medical emergency.

However, when tunnel vision develops in relation to gradual vision loss occurring with certain eye diseases, such as glaucoma, it is not considered a medical emergency. Your eye doctor will keep a close watch of vision changes while you are under treatment. 

Living With Tunnel Vision

People with tunnel vision are limited in their freedom of movement. Because vision is limited to straight in front, a person will need to use great caution when simply walking across a room. We may not realize how much we use our peripheral vision until it is taken away. It may even be impossible to obtain a driver's license with tunnel vision, as driving requires seeing everything around you.

What You Should Know

Flying in an airplane can put you at risk for developing tunnel vision. Exposure to air that has been contaminated by oils and hydraulic fluids may cause the condition to also develop.

Temporary vision problems are common in people who become ill while flying in an airplane.

if you suddenly develop tunnel vision, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Although the condition may not be able to be reversed, early treatment could prevent further vision loss. 

Also Known As: tubular field

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