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What Causes Loss of Peripheral Vision?

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An example of vision with peripheral vision loss, it blackens the vision on the side.

One part of your vision that your eye doctor will typically check during a comprehensive eye examination is your peripheral vision. Peripheral vision loss (PVL) may not seem like a big problem initially. After all, you can still see things in front of you.

Unfortunately, you cannot reverse vision loss, and PVL can be permanent. Several eye diseases and conditions, such as glaucoma, retinal detachment, floaters, or migraines, could cause PVL.

PVL can be serious, so it’s important to see your eye doctor as soon as you notice any signs of losing your peripheral vision.

What Is Peripheral Vision?

Peripheral vision is also known as side vision. It’s your ability to see things to the side without moving your eyes, or “out of the corner of your eye.” This may not seem like the most important part of your vision, but it’s crucial to being able to see clearly. 

If someone loses their peripheral vision, they get what’s known as tunnel vision. This is where you can only see things directly in front of you. Loss of peripheral vision won’t necessarily lessen the distance you can see, but it does significantly narrow your field of view.

Symptoms of Peripheral Vision Loss

In most cases, you won’t go from side vision to no side vision instantly. Eye injuries could be an exception to this. Before you notice the vision loss, there may be other indicators:

  • Tripping or bumping into things
  • Having difficulty walking in the dark
  • Trouble driving, especially at night
  • 10 to 20 minutes of tunnel vision after seeing shimmers of light

Stopping Peripheral Vision Loss

If PVL is gradual and you notice it happening over time, you’ll want to bring it up with your eye doctor at your next exam. But if it happens suddenly or with other symptoms, you should contact your eye doctor as soon as possible or visit your local emergency room.

As we mentioned, vision loss is permanent and cannot be recovered. It’s important that whatever is causing your PVL is solved quickly to prevent further damage. A migraine may cause temporary PVL, but you should still see your eye doctor to rule out other causes.

A male doctor holding a card with text GLAUCOMA.

Potential Causes of Peripheral Vision Loss

Your eye doctor needs to get to the root of your PVL primarily to stop it. For example, if glaucoma is causing problems in your side vision, glaucoma needs to be dealt with.

Potential causes of PVL include:


There are several types of glaucoma. Vision loss from damage to the optic nerve is what most of the subtypes have in common. Unless you develop acute angle-closure glaucoma, the condition typically develops slowly with few symptoms.

With most cases of glaucoma, the vision loss begins in your side vision and moves into your central vision. That may be the first symptom you notice.

Retinal Detachment

The gradual loss of your side vision and a sudden increase of floaters in your vision are two signs of retinal detachment. Sometimes the symptoms of retinal detachment develop slowly, but more often, they come on suddenly. It’s important to see your eye doctor as soon as possible to avoid vision loss from this condition.


Vitreous floaters—commonly known as floaters—are caused by the jelly-like fluid in your eye called vitreous. It’s common for pieces of vitreous to break off as we age. Then it clumps together, causing the spots in your vision.

If a floater is large enough and sits in your side vision, it could cause a blind spot. Additionally, floaters can signify the much more serious retinal detachment we looked at above. You should see an eye doctor if you have a sudden increase in floaters.

Ocular Migraine

The above causes result in permanent vision loss if not dealt with. One exception to permanent PVL is an ocular migraine. An ocular migraine typically happens alongside a regular migraine. The vision loss from an ocular migraine usually comes back within an hour.

What to Do if You Notice PVL

If you experience a sudden and drastic loss of your side vision during business hours, give us a call. The experienced team at Total Vision La Mesa can provide instructions on the next steps until we can examine your eyes. Please visit the emergency room outside of normal business hours.

Your optometrist typically looks at your peripheral vision during an exam, but will mention any gradual changes you’ve noticed in your peripheral vision. Then your eye doctor can pay close attention to anything that could cause your side vision issues.

Written by Total Vision

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