Your field of vision is everything that you can see and involves central and peripheral vision. Central vision is what you can see in front of you, while peripheral vision is everything else you can see without moving your head. Tunnel vision is another name for loss of peripheral vision.
Peripheral vision refers to what you can see to each side or up and down without moving your head, or everything that you can see that isn’t in your central vision. Your central vision is what you see that’s directly in front of you.
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If you’ve ever seen something “out of the corner of your eye,” you’re talking about your peripheral vision. Indirect vision is another term for peripheral vision.
Your central vision is generally clearer than your peripheral vision because your eyes focus on what they’re looking at.
Your visual field is everything you can see — it includes peripheral and central vision.
Good peripheral vision is useful because it expands your field of vision, or the entire area of what you can see. Peripheral vision allows you to see color, movement and shapes outside of your central vision, even though you don’t see them in as much detail as you do when you’re looking at them directly.
Peripheral vision helps you in almost all of your daily activities, including walking, reading, driving and playing sports like baseball.
It might help to think of a performer on stage looking out at the audience or the catcher in a baseball game looking out at the field. Without moving their heads, they can see straight ahead very well. They can see either side of the center fairly well. They can’t see as well to the far right and left sides.
All parts of your eye provide central vision, but your retina, macula and fovea are key. The retina is a lining in your eye that contains cells that capture light (photoreceptor cells). It contains the macula, which itself contains the fovea, also known as the fovea centralis. The fovea is the part that gives you the sharpest vision.
So even in your eye, the center part provides the sharpest vision. There are also parts of your retina to the sides of the center — these parts make up the peripheral retina.
When you only see what’s directly in front of you, you have tunnel vision. This is the term for peripheral vision loss in your eyes. Tunnel vision describes what you see if you look through a tube or rolled-up magazine. The “tunnel” means you can only see what’s right in front of you. (Sometimes, people use the term “tunnel vision” in a nonmedical way to refer to the point of view of someone who’s narrow-minded or focused only on one thing.)
Having no central vision while having peripheral vision means you have a central scotoma. Scotoma is the medical term for a blind spot.
Eye floaters and flashes are relatively common in peripheral and central vision. As you get older, the gel-like part of your eye (vitreous humor) shrinks. Tiny pieces break off and turn into those lines and flashes that you see floating across your eye.
In terms of seeing things that aren’t there, it’s worth noting that things in your peripheral vision may have moved so quickly that they look like a blur, or they’re gone before you turn your head.
In some cases, seeing these types of things could indicate a more serious issue, including:
If you see lines, blurs, lights and movements more often than you used to, call an eye care provider for an appointment. It’s always best to have your provider give you an actual diagnosis.
Your provider will test peripheral vision during your eye exam. A visual field test is painless. You don’t need to prepare. The immediate results tell your provider how far up and down and to each side you see without moving your head. The test also shows your provider how sensitive your vision is in every part of your visual field.
You can help your peripheral vision by doing things to keep your eyes healthy, including:
If you have a condition that affects your central vision, ask your provider about resources to manage that condition or to improve your peripheral vision. There are providers who specialize in vision therapy (eye exercises).
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Without thinking about it, you use peripheral vision to go about your daily life. It helps with reading, driving and all kinds of daily activities. Without it, you may bump into things or fall. It’s peripheral vision that helps a baseball pitcher know when someone is trying to steal a base.
Some eye conditions can affect your central vision, while leaving peripheral vision intact. Other conditions can affect your peripheral vision, causing tunnel vision. It’s always important to contact an eye care specialist who can diagnose and treat your condition and to help you keep your eyes as healthy as they can be.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/01/2023.
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