Eye Matters
March 20, 2009
Testing your peripheral vision

Last week I promised to show you how to test your peripheral vision by yourself. Please bear in mind that this is a rough test. You can only use it for gross defects in your field of vision. For subtler defects you will need to do a visual field test. This is a very sophisticated eye examination that tests thousands of different points on your retina to rule out certain conditions such as glaucoma, brain tumors, cataracts, retinal and optic nerve disease, among others.{{more}}

You are going to need a friend to help you do this test. You and your friend should sit facing each other, roughly two feet apart at eye level. Please see the picture for more clarification. You are going to need an object that you can hold at a slight distance from your hand, such as an eraser or pencil. Have your friend cover one eye and you cover one eye also. For example, your friend covers his or her right eye, and you cover your left eye. Look directly into each others’ open eyes without moving. Now, with the pencil in your right hand, extend the eraser as far to your right as you can reach and slowly bring the eraser in towards you and your friend, keeping it on an imaginary line mid way between the two of you. You will need to bend your elbow to do this. Both you and your friend should see the eraser come into view out of the corners of your eyes at about the same time. Be sure it is the eraser you see and not the pencil. If one person sees the eraser much sooner than the other, the one who sees it last might have decreased peripheral vision, and should contact an eye doctor. A difference of four inches may be significant.

Now, do the technique again, but this time, bring the eraser in from your left side. Then, repeat the technique twice more. Bring the eraser down from over your head and up from your knees. Do the entire technique with opposite eyes. Each time, both you and your friend should see the eraser at about the same time. This home peripheral vision test will pick up only very significant problems. For more accurate testing to find subtle effects in the visual field, see your eye doctor.

Dr Kenneth Onu is a resident Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Beachmont Eye Institute/Eyes R Us.

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