A year slips by quickly. Before you know it, it is time, once again, to get those annual checkups that help your doctor monitor your health. While you’re at it, don’t forget to make an appointment with your eye doctor for a vision field test, especially if you are being monitored for glaucoma or optic hypertension. As we age, the health of our eyes becomes increasingly more important.
So why is a visual field test so important?
A visual field test is designed to measure central and peripheral vision. Peripheral vision is our side vision, everything visible to the periphery. Hold your arms out to your side and while looking straight ahead, notice whether or not you can see you fingers when you wiggle them. That’s a simple indicator of side vision, but the eye doctor administers a test that is more extensive, of course. The visual field test helps to determine the severity of a patient’s glaucoma.
What’s the test like?
The most common form of visual field test involves a light spot that flicks on and off in various locations. The patient’s head is held still with a chin rest. As they stare straight ahead little lights are flashed in the periphery testing site. When a patient notices the lights, they are instructed to press a button in order to communicate that they actually saw the light appear. Some people find this test to be a tad nerve wracking as the light movement is quick and randomly appears in a variety of locations. However, the test is entirely painless.
Why does the test need to be performed annually?
The initial field test gives the doctor a baseline with which to monitor the progression of the disease. Glaucoma is a slow moving disease that often goes undetected until extensive damage to the eye has already taken place. Once a baseline has been established, all follow-up testing will help to identify whether the disease has progressed and if the appropriate treatment is being received.
Is this the only way to test field vision?
Imaging of the optic nerve and surrounding tissue is another test that is used to identify level of damage specifically to the optic nerve as well as the speed of progression of the disease. This test will give your doctor additional information, but at this time, there is no test that has replaced the traditional vision field test. Both tests work together to give a more complete picture of a patient’s disease.
Don’t be nervous
Some patients have a little trouble relaxing during the test. They may even be tempted to try and cheat the test by looking around to compensate for lack of peripheral vision. Hitting the button indiscriminately can also lead to unreliable outcomes on the test. Just relax and do your best to follow the request of your doctor.