Self-Training in Eccentric Viewing
by Jennifer Galbraith, O.D., M.S.
Macular degeneration is a common form of vision impairment in the United States. This disease damages the macula, the part of the retina used for clear central vision, leading to a blind spot in the middle of the visual field. Although central vision is affected, peripheral vision will always remain.
One way to learn to use peripheral vision is through eccentric viewing. If you look directly at something, such as a person’s nose, you can make it disappear in the blind spot. However, if you look slightly to the side, the blind spot moves off to the side, and using your peripheral vision, you can see the person’s nose again.
This site provides four sets of three images for the purpose of practicing eccentric vision. The sizes of the images grow progressively smaller with each set. For best results, your monitor should be adjusted to the standard resolution of 800×600, 72 Hz. This resolution will display the letter A (below) at approximately four inches high. You can adjust your setting in the monitor control panel.
Begin with this page. Move five to ten feet away from your monitor. Look directly at the letter A, making it disappear or become very blurred. Then look slightly to the side, above, or below the letter, making it reappear. Be sure to keep your head still. Once you can read the letter, hold your eye in that position (called your “Preferred Retinal Loci,” or PVL) as long as possible. When you feel that you can comfortably see the letter eccentrically, then move on to the next page to repeat the exercise.
Eccentric viewing is not an easy skill to develop, but don’t give up. With patience and practice (5 to 10 minutes every day), it will eventually become second nature. For more information, see the article, “Eccentric Viewing” in the MD Support Library.