Macular diseases cause uncorrectable impairment of the central vision. In time, as the disease progresses, the patient’s ability to see what is in the direct line of sight becomes more and more tenuous. At this point, the best way to see what has disappeared in the center of your visual field is simply to look away. Now you will see it, not in the center, but in the peripheral vision. Also known as eccentric viewing (EV), this visual work-around can be easily practiced, and learned, to compensate for the scotoma or blind spot.
Practice these exercises to maximize remaining peripheral sight:
- Look at an object straight on, then avert your eyes left, right, up, down, and around. Find the spot where you see best in your peripheral field, known by professionals as the PRL – preferred retinal locus. Move just your eyes, not your head.
- Look into the silverware drawer and the utensils have no clear definition, look away and forks, knives, spoons become more apparent. Repeat this exercise in the medicine cabinet, desk drawer, and coat closet too.
- Get into the habit of scanning left to right to see what’s in front when walking in the street. Avert your eyes to identify lights on crosswalks and be aware of the movement of traffic in your side vision.
- Use your peripheral vision to identify signage at eye level, for example: restrooms, room numbers, office signs, doors in & out, etc.
- When facing someone, glance away to better see their facial features in your peripheral field.
- Try eccentric viewing while watching TV, close up, or at a distance.
- Avert your eyes as you enter a room to get a better view of the layout, the furniture, and any obstacles in your path.
- Experience more vivid color perception of clothing, home furnishings, while taking a walk in nature or looking at a bouquet of flowers.
Test your peripheral vision in all daily activities and discover where it helps most. Practice every day, learning requires repetition. In just a few days you will begin to develop the new habit, in a few weeks it will become second nature. For many macula patients adjusting the view eccentrically provides a significant boost to visual function. If it does not come with some ease, consult a Low Vision Rehab Therapist for specialized training.