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Eyesmart, American Academy of Ophthalmology

Eyesmart, American Academy of Ophthalmology

Field of Vision Testing: What It Is, How It’s Done, and When You Need It

Field of Vision Testing: What It Is, How It’s Done, and When You Need It

How well can you see around you when looking straight ahead? Seeing involves more than just central vision clarity. Here are five common tests your doctor uses to measure your visual field.

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When you read the words on your screen, are you able to see not only what’s in front of you but also what’s on either side, above, and below you? The entire area you can see while focused on a central point is your field of vision. Measuring the visual field is one way an eye doctor determines how well you can see in each eye, and the amount of vision you may have lost. Visual field testing can also reveal blind spots (or areas that are relatively dim compared to areas which see well) that show how much a disease or injury is affecting your sight.* 

5 Ways of Testing Field of Vision

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), an ophthalmologist has six (6) methods for testing your field of vision, depending on your situation.

Confrontation testing

The confrontation visual field test is a common method for screening visual field problems. Here, you focus on an object directly ahead, such as the doctor’s nose, with one eye covered. At the same time, a doctor will ask you to identify various objects held in different areas of your peripheral (side) vision.

Automated static perimetry

An automated static perimetry test is used to map what you can see in your visual field. With one eye covered, you’ll look into a device which may contain your lens prescription. As you focus on a central target, small, dim lights will blink throughout your peripheral field of vision. You press a button for each one you see, and the machine records the lights that are missed. 

Kinetic testing

A doctor may choose a kinetic visual field test in some cases. This test is similar to static perimetry, except that you’ll be asked to track moving lights instead of blinking lights, and respond when you see them in your field of vision..

Frequency doubling perimetry

Another way of testing peripheral vision loss is with frequency doubling perimetry. In this test, vertical bars shine at different rates on the sides of the screen. If you can’t see the bars at certain times, you may have vision loss in those areas of your visual field.

Amsler grid

The Amsler grid is a basic visual field test that only assesses central vision, often used for home monitoring in people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The test consists of a grid made up of equal squares and a dot at the center. You focus on the dot and then notice any areas appearing wavy, blurry, or blank. 

When to Have Visual Field Testing

The AAO says “visual field testing is an important part of regular eye care” for people at risk of losing vision from any disorder. An ophthalmologist will determine how often this should be done. People with these conditions should be tested often:

  • Glaucoma
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Thyroid eye disease (Graves’ disease)
  • Pituitary gland problems
  • Central nervous system issues, like a tumor pressing on visual parts of the brain
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes and high blood pressure

If you take certain drugs, such as Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine), long-term, you should get your visual field tested every year. 

Driving ability can be impaired with a limited visual field. The AAO advises that you speak with your doctor if you’re worried about vision loss, or aren’t sure whether or not to continue driving.

*Turbert, D. (2022, March 10). Visual Field Test. Eyesmart, American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Humphrey Machine Visual Field Test.” by Phillip Jeffrey is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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