You’ve probably heard it used as a disparaging remark – a person or business has “tunnel vision” – meaning they can only see things from their own, narrow point of view. It’s more than just a saying; tunnel vision is a very real vision impairment and it involves the loss of peripheral, or side, vision.
Tunnel vision causes the loss of clear sight on the sides of the field of vision, while sight in the central field of vision remains clear and focused. Clinically speaking, tunnel vision occurs when the optic nerve or retina is damaged. It can also occur if there is damage to the area of the brain that processes visual images. It’s like looking through a long, narrow tube.
Tunnel vision is usually the result of one of two eye diseases:
- Retinis Pigmentosa
Both of these diseases can cause permanent vision loss. If glaucoma is detected early in a regular eye exam, some of the vision loss can be slowed.
Glaucoma: Not only does this disease cause tunnel vision, it is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world. The disease has no early symptoms, one of the reasons it is called the “Silent Thief of Sight”. It can only be detected during an eye exam with an ophthalmologist.
It’s estimated that 11.2 million people will be blinded by glaucoma by the year 2020. It is one of the most common chronic eye diseases for seniors and is the leading cause of blindness for those over the age of 64.
Glaucoma is caused by the buildup of fluid and pressure in the eye. It damages the nerve that carries information on images from the eye to the brain where they are “decoded” for the eye to see and understand.
Risk factors for glaucoma include:
- Being over the age of 40
- Family members with glaucoma
- African or Hispanic heritage
- Diagnosed with high eye pressure
- Are farsighted or nearsighted
- Have had an eye injury
- Have corneas that are thin in the center or a thinning of the optic nerve
- Have diabetes, migraines, poor blood circulation or other health problems affecting the whole body
There are treatments for glaucoma including eye drops and laser eye surgery. The most important thing is to get an early diagnosis of the disease when treatments may be most effective in slowing vision loss.
Retinas Pigmentosa (RP) is a genetic disorder that progressively damages sight. There is no cure. Typically, it is diagnosed in adolescents and young adults and sadly most people with RP are legally blind by age 40. An estimated 100,000 people in the U.S. have RP, mainly caused by gene mutations (variations) inherited from one or both parents.
RP damages the retina. Night blindness is one of the first symptoms of the disease. It may also make if difficult to determine one color from another. Eventually, the disease robs the person of peripheral vision, causing tunnel vision and eventually causes legal blindness.
We can help to diagnose eye diseases
Our specialists are trained in conducting highly specialized exams that can detect eye diseases in their earliest stages. They will:
- Measure eye pressure
- Inspect the eye’s drainage angle
- Examine the optic nerve for damage
- Test your peripheral (side) vision
- Take a picture or computer measurement of your optic nerve
- Measure the thickness of your cornea
Although these eye diseases rob individuals of vision we believe that patients who are legally blind can live an active and independent lifestyle. Each individual has different levels of low vision that can be enhanced with the right low vision technology. After our physicians conduct an assessment, a custom plan is devised to achieve functional sight and it can include one of the following medical devices:
- Microscope glasses with state-of-the-art double lens systems
- Telescope glasses with miniature binoculars
- e-Sight glasses that combine a camera, display technology, and advanced computing to deliver real-time video to the wearer
- IrisVision, the newest most advanced wearable technology that makes blurry things in the central field of vision clear
If you or a loved one suffer with low vision, call us. Most of our patients have been told that nothing more can be done to enhance their low vision. We don’t accept that, and our advanced medical devices expand environments and improve lives every day.