Reviewed by Sonia Kelley, OD, MS on October 20, 2023

Your peripheral vision is a critical part of your overall vision and your ability to see the world around you. Peripheral vision (also called side or indirect vision) is what you can see up and down or to the left and right without moving your head. If you’ve ever seen something out of the corner of your eye, you’re using your peripheral vision.

A peripheral vision test can help determine the range of your indirect vision and whether any loss of this vision has occurred. Some peripheral vision tests can be done at home. Your eye doctor also may give you a peripheral vision test during your eye exam.

What is a Peripheral Vision Test?

A peripheral vision test, or visual field test, measures how much you can see that’s not in your central vision. Your central vision is what you can see directly in front of you when you’re looking straight ahead — without moving your head. A visual field test helps your eye doctor determine how sensitive your peripheral vision is and if you have any blind spots.

How to Check Peripheral Vision

There are several types of peripheral vision tests, one of which you can do at home. However, a home test doesn’t replace professional eye exams.

Confrontation Visual Field Test

This type of peripheral vision test can be performed at home or by an eye care professional. It’s called “confrontation” because the person giving the test faces the person taking it. You need someone to help you perform this test if you’re conducting it at home. Here’s how to do it: * Stand or sit at eye level with your partner, three to four feet apart. * Cover one of your eyes with an eye patch or hand. * Look straight ahead and fixate on a target. * Have the other person hold their arms straight out to the side. * Have your partner move one hand at a time inward toward the center of your vision until you see it. * Let the other person know as soon as you can see their hand. * Repeat the test for the other eye.

The confrontation visual field test isn’t very exact but it may indicate if you’re having trouble seeing in your peripheral vision.

Automated Static Perimetry Test

For this in-office test, you look into a perimeter, which is a machine that looks like a bowl cut in half and on its side. If you wear prescription glasses or readers, you’ll be asked to remove them before the test so they don’t obstruct your peripheral vision.

During the test, you focus on a center target while small lights appear on the screen throughout the bowl. You press a button every time you see a light, and the perimeter tracks the lights you didn’t see. This helps your doctor determine if you have any side vision loss.

Other Peripheral Visual Field Tests

Your eye doctor may perform other peripheral vision field tests during a comprehensive eye exam or when monitoring eye conditions like glaucoma. Some of these may include: * Kinetic visual field test – This test also uses the perimeter. The difference is that the lights move around instead of staying in one place. * Frequency doubling perimetry – For this test, an optical illusion appears when you look into the perimeter. Vertical lines flicker on and off. Your vision in parts of your visual field could be damaged if you can’t see certain lines at given times.

When to See Your Eye Doctor

Getting regular eye exams can help identify eye issues like peripheral vision loss early on. Make an appointment for an eye exam if you have any concerns or experience any of the following results when doing a peripheral vision test at home: * Blind spots – The development of new, persistent blind spots or areas of missing vision during testing could indicate an eye health problem. * Difference in results – You could have an underlying eye condition if you notice significant differences in your peripheral vision between your right and left eye during the confrontation test.

You should also let your eye doctor know if you notice any changes in your peripheral vision over time such as feeling that you’re developing tunnel vision. This is when your peripheral field of vision gradually shrinks, eventually appearing as if you’re looking through a narrow tube.

Any changes in your peripheral vision can be a sign of an eye condition such as glaucoma. Shadows in your peripheral vision can be caused by a retinal detachment or indicate an impending stroke or other retinal or neurological issue.

Maintaining healthy vision is essential for your overall quality of life. Correctly performing an at-home peripheral vision test like the confrontation test may help you and your doctor monitor your peripheral vision, but is not a replacement for a comprehensive eye exam with a peripheral visual field exam performed by an eye doctor.