The visual field refers to the total area in which objects can be seen in the side (peripheral) vision as you focus your eyes on a central point.
This article describes the test that measures your visual field.
Perimetry; Tangent screen exam; Automated perimetry exam; Goldmann visual field exam; Humphrey visual field exam
How the Test is Performed
Confrontation visual field exam. This is a quick and basic check of the visual field. The health care provider sits directly in front of you. You will cover one eye, and stare straight ahead with the other. You will be asked to tell when you can see the examiner's hand.
Tangent screen or Goldmann field exam. You will sit about 3 feet (90 centimeters) from a screen with a target in the center. You will be asked to stare at the center target and let the examiner know when you can see an object that moves into your side vision. This exam creates a map of your entire peripheral vision.
Automated perimetry. You sit in front of a concave dome and stare at a target in the middle. You press a button when you see small flashes of light in your peripheral vision. Your responses help determine if you have a defect in your visual field. Automated perimetry is often used to track conditions that may worsen over time.
Your provider will discuss with you the type of visual field testing to be done.
How to Prepare for the Test
No special preparation is necessary.
How the Test will Feel
There is no discomfort with this test.
Why the Test is Performed
This eye exam will show whether you have a loss of vision anywhere in your visual field. The pattern of vision loss will help your provider diagnose the cause.
The peripheral vision is normal.
What Abnormal Results Mean
Abnormal results may be due to diseases or central nervous system (CNS) disorders, such as tumors that damage or press on (compress) the parts of the brain that deal with vision.
Other diseases that may affect the visual field of the eye include:
- Glaucoma (increased eye pressure)
- High blood pressure
- Macular degeneration (eye disorder that slowly destroys sharp, central vision)
- Multiple sclerosis (disorder that affects the CNS)
- Optic glioma (tumor of the optic nerve)
- Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
- Pituitary gland disorders
- Retinal detachment (separation of the retina in the back of the eye from its supporting layers)
- Temporal arteritis (inflammation and damage to the blood vessels that supply blood to the head)
The test has no risks.
Budenz DL. Visual field testing in glaucoma. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 10.5.
Elliott DB, Flanagan JG. Assessment of visual function. In: Elliott DB, ed. Clinical Procedures in Primary Eye Care. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 10.5.
Feder RS, Olsen TW, Prum BE Jr, et al.; American Academy of Ophthalmology. Comprehensive adult medical eye evaluation preferred practice pattern guidelines. Ophthalmology. 2016;123(1):209-236. PMID: 26581558 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26581558.
Reviewed By: Franklin W. Lusby, MD, ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.