Strengthening Your Peripheral Vision
Those of us affected by macular degeneration are at risk of losing some or all of our central vision with the progression of the disease. At some point, we very well could become reliant on our peripheral vision to function day to day.
Most people without central vision loss (or the possibility of it) probably don’t think too much about their peripheral vision. The only time I remember being asked to actively use mine is when looking for the red lights at the driver’s facility. Now, I think about my peripheral vision all the time. I look around and try to determine what I can and cannot see with it.
Protecting our eyes
It’s important to note here that it is so vital to take care of our eyes in every way we can. I mostly write articles about macular degeneration because that is where my experience and knowledge lie. But, I am a huge, huge advocate of overall health and being proactive in protecting our eyes in general. There isn’t a person on this planet that should risk their precious eyesight. Any vision loss is devastating and scary. Those of you here that may have glaucoma are at risk for losing your peripheral vision quickly if symptoms are ignored or unrecognized.
Strengthening peripheral vision is real thing!
Knowing my central vision is probably going to be lost at some point, I started researching possible ways to naturally strengthen my peripheral vision. I was a little surprised and happy to learn that strengthening peripheral vision is a real thing, and is actually pretty common in the world of professional sports. It’s called sports visual training. I figure if professional athletes recognize the importance of a strong sense of peripheral vision and the ability to strengthen it, it’s something to feel positive about for the future of my own failing vision. Maybe I can strengthen my own!
Central and foveal vision
Basically, our central vision is controlled by the part of our eyes called the fovea. The fovea is the central most part of our retina that is packed with ‘rods’ and ‘cones.' These rods and cones perceive light and make the fovea capable of a focused and clear central vision. When you look at an item closely or read words on a page, you’re using your foveal vision.
3 areas of peripheral vision
There are three areas of peripheral vision: near, mid, and far peripheral. The more central our vision, the clearer the item is. As we start to view items outside of our central vision, things start to become less clear. This is our peripheral vision. Our peripheral vision is really good at detecting motion and actually notices movement faster than the central part of our vision.
Detecting motion more quickly
You may, for example, see a ball flying towards you or a car coming down the street more quickly in your periphery than you would in your central vision. It helps to be able to see things without looking directly at them. That’s why they check our peripheral vision with lights at the DMV. It’s important to use our peripheral vision when driving.
Practicing peripheral awareness
The first step is to begin actively paying attention to your peripheral sights. This is called peripheral awareness.
Relax your body
You can then simply sit in a chair in a comfortable position. Proceed by taking a few big, deep breaths in and out. The goal here is relaxing your body and releasing any tension you may have. Through a little bit of amateur research, I believe the point of this is to not be distracted by any aches or pains in your body so you can focus totally on what you’re doing with your vision.
Notice what's around your central point of vision
Next, you should find something to look at directly with the central part of your vision. As you do this, without moving your eyes or head around, attempt to see what is around you...try to notice what is above the object you’re focusing on, what is below it, to the left of it, and so on.
Practicing seeing movement
After you feel comfortable with this part of the training, you can start to hold your hands out and wiggle your fingers, keeping your eyes forward and on the item you’ve chosen to focus on. What should happen over time is that you may be able to move your wiggling fingers out farther and father, expanding how far out you can go and still see the movement. This is progress in the training of your peripheral vision and pretty neat if you ask me!
Losing my central vision
When I was first diagnosed with myopic macular degeneration in my twenties, I was under the assumption that I was going to go totally, black-out blind. Somehow, it was years later that I learned I’d only possibly lose my central vision from this devastating disease. I know it may seem strange to say ‘only possibly lose my central vision’ because that is a big huge life-changing deal...but it sounds a whole heck of a lot better than black-out blind. Am I right?
Anxiety and depression
To this day, I still think that is something I should have been told by my doctors right away, but I wasn’t. And I worried and worried about it and went through a period of what I now recognize as slight depression from it. Though I definitely still worry about the loss of my central vision, I am coming to terms with it. What choice do I have? I am just doing all I can now to preserve my vision and trying to help others in the process.
I love that this is an easy and quick way to take back some control over the loss of our vision. It only takes a few minutes a day to practice and every little bit helps! I challenge you all to take just a few minutes out of your day to practice this. You never know how much it may end up helping you.
I’d love to hear your results over time as well. Comment below!
Do all you can,
Do you still drive?