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Tunnel Vision (Peripheral Vision Loss)

Medically reviewed by Health Library. Date Last Reviewed: 19/05/2023

Tunnel Vision (Peripheral Vision Loss)

Tunnel vision is another name for peripheral vision loss. It makes it hard or impossible to see objects that aren’t directly in front of you. It can be temporary, but it might also permanently change your vision depending on what causes it.

Tunnel Vision (Peripheral Vision Loss)

What is tunnel vision?

Tunnel vision is another name for peripheral vision loss. It’s called tunnel vision because your ability to see can seem like you’re looking into a tunnel — you can only see what’s right in front of your eyes.

Your peripheral vision loss might be a temporary symptom that gets better with treatment. Some cases of tunnel vision are permanent.

Tunnel vision affects your field of vision. Your field of vision is the whole area you can see when your eyes are looking straight ahead without moving. It’s made of two parts:

Central vision: Your central vision is what’s directly in front of you, or what your eyes are pointed at. Objects in your central vision are sharper and clearer because they’re what your eyes are focused on.

Peripheral vision: Your peripheral vision is anything you can see that’s not directly in front of where you’re looking. You might see it referred to as your side vision. It’s what you can see out of the corner of your eye. Your peripheral vision is naturally a little less clear than your central vision.

Visit an eye care specialist or healthcare provider as soon as you notice any changes in your eyes or vision. Go to the emergency room if you suddenly lose sight in one or both of your eyes.

What does tunnel vision look like?

Tunnel vision is the name for anything that makes your field of vision smaller by restricting your peripheral vision. When something affects your eyes or other parts of your body that help you see, your field of vision can shrink. You can have tunnel vision in one eye at a time or it can affect both of your eyes simultaneously. You also might feel dizzy or unsteady standing or walking.

Your central vision might be unaffected, but you won’t be able to see anything that’s not right in front of your eyes. Picture looking through the cardboard tube at the center of a roll of paper towels. You can still see what’s on the other side of the tube, but everything to the sides will be blocked out.

What are the most common causes of tunnel vision?

Tunnel vision can be caused by conditions that affect your eyes or the other parts of your body that help you see, including your:


Blood vessels.


Conditions that damage your eyes or the parts inside them can cause tunnel vision and make you lose your peripheral vision. Some of the most common eye diseases that cause tunnel vision include:


Retinitis pigmentosa.

Diabetes-related retinopathy.

Retinal detachment.

Optic neuritis.

Retinal vein occlusion (RVO).

Health conditions that affect other parts of your body can cause tunnel vision, including:

Migraine headaches.

Carotid artery disease (carotid artery stenosis).



High blood pressure (hypertension).

Stickler syndrome.

Some causes of tunnel vision will permanently limit your peripheral vision. Other cases of tunnel vision are temporary and will go away when a healthcare provider treats the cause. If the tunnel vision is permanent, your eye care specialist will help you find ways to cope with vision loss.

How is tunnel vision treated?

An eye care specialist or healthcare provider will treat what’s causing tunnel vision. Which treatment you’ll need depends on how severe your peripheral vision loss is and what caused it.

You might need medication. Some people need surgery to repair damage inside their body that led to peripheral vision loss. Your ophthalmologist will tell you what to expect if you need eye surgery.

When should I have my eyes examined?

Visit an eye care specialist regularly for routine eye exams. They’ll be able to identify early signs of many conditions that can cause tunnel vision before they affect your peripheral vision.

Having your eyes and vision checked regularly can help your eye care specialist identify problems right away. How often you should get your eyes checked usually depends on your age:

Kids: A pediatrician should check your child’s eyes around the time they learn the alphabet, and then every one to two years.

Adults under 40: Every five to 10 years.

Adults between 40 and 54: Every two to four years.

Adults older than 55: Every one to three years.

You might need your eyes checked more often than this if you wear glasses or contacts or need another type of visual aid. People with diabetes need their eyes checked more often than what’s listed here.

Ask an eye care specialist how often you need an eye exam.

When should I see a healthcare provider?

Visit an eye care specialist or healthcare provider as soon as you notice any changes in your eyes or vision — especially if the changes happen suddenly.

Go to the emergency room if you have any of the following symptoms:

A sudden loss of vision.

Severe eye pain.

You see new flashes or floaters in your eyes.

Does ADHD cause tunnel vision?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects children and adults. People with ADHD have trouble with inattentiveness, distractibility, impulsivity and hyperactivity.

Some people with ADHD — especially kids — become hyperfocused on activities they enjoy, like playing video games. People might call this hyperfocus having tunnel vision. This isn’t the medical symptom that’s a loss of peripheral vision. It’s usually a metaphor for how someone is only able to focus on that specific activity.

Talk to a healthcare provider if you think you or your child might have ADHD.

Can panic attacks cause tunnel vision?

You can experience a lot of physical and mental symptoms during a panic attack. Some people who have panic disorders feel like their field of vision is narrowing.

Talk to a healthcare provider or mental health professional if you have panic attacks that last longer than 15 minutes or if they interfere with your day-to-day routine.

Tunnel vision shrinks your field of vision and restricts your peripheral vision. It can be a temporary issue that will get better with treatment. Tunnel vision might also be a permanent change in your vision. An eye care specialist will treat the cause of the tunnel vision to restore as much of your sight as possible. Regular eye exams can help identify issues in your eyes and vision before they cause tunnel vision and other symptoms.

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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