Peripheral Vision: Definition & Problems

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

You use your peripheral vision every day, but do you know how it works? This lesson dives in to the details and brings you up to speed on everything you need to know about peripheral vision.

Vision Basics

Find an object on the wall right in front of you and fix your gaze on it. Now, don't move your eyes and see what you notice to the left or right of that object. How far were you able to see? Were you able to notice details and movement? What you saw was in your peripheral vision, or sight that is off your central line of vision. Your peripheral vision is actually the largest part of your vision, accounting for 100 degrees, compared to the central line which gives you about 70 degrees. Peripheral vision is categorized into three areas - far, mid and near vision. Let's take a closer look.

Peripheral Vision

Like we said above, your peripheral vision is a large field outside your main line of vision. You use it almost constantly. Think about when you drive or walk to the store. You're looking in front of you to make sure you don't run into something, but you're also noticing things off to the side as well. Your peripheral vision picks up movement and makes you aware of what is happening around you.

We divide peripheral vision in three ways:

Far Peripheral Vision

Just like the name implies, far peripheral vision takes place furthest from your central line of vision, way off to the side and behind of your central line. Look back at the object from earlier and notice how much you see to your immediate left or right, near you. This is your far peripheral vision.

Mid Peripheral Vision

As you focus on the central line of vision, the area you see to the middle of your peripheral screen is called the mid peripheral vision field. Though it may appear that this is the largest section of peripheral vision, it actually is divided equally with the other two areas. Take a look at this graphic.

Far, mid and near peripheral vision

Near Peripheral Vision

The line of vision just off the central area is called your near peripheral vision. It may seem to blend a bit with your central focus, but it actually isn't the same. Anything you see that isn't in your central line of vision is considered peripheral. Your near peripheral line of vision is the most acute, meaning you're able to pick up more details from this line than your mid or far peripheral vision fields.

How Peripheral Vision Works

Before we talk about problems with peripheral vision, let's make sure we understand how our eyes are able to see objects off to the side to begin with. When you see something, that image is relayed into your eye to the back inner section called the retina. The retina is a layer of nerve tissue that takes in these light images and sends signals to the brain. The center of the retina, called the macula, has the most receptor cells, with the amount of cells lessening as you move away from the macula. The receptor cells are called rods and cones; rods see dim light but can't see color and cones see bright light and color. The cones are located in the center of the retina. Here's a look:

The retina is made of cones and rods

When the rods and cones are in perfect working order, we don't have issues with our peripheral vision. Sometimes, though, things can go wrong. Let's see what some of these issues are.

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