Visual Field Test

  • Medical Author:
    Patricia S. Bainter, MD

    Dr. Bainter is a board-certified ophthalmologist. She received her BA from Pomona College in Claremont, CA, and her MD from the University of Colorado in Denver, CO. She completed an internal medicine internship at St. Joseph Hospital in Denver, CO, followed by an ophthalmology residency and a cornea and external disease fellowship, both at the University of Colorado. She became board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology in 1998 and recertified in 2008. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Dr. Bainter practices general ophthalmology including cataract surgery and management of corneal and anterior segment diseases. She has volunteered in eye clinics in the Dominican Republic and Bosnia. She currently practices at One to One Eye Care in San Diego, CA.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Glaucoma Test

Visual Field Testing

Visual field testing actually maps the visual fields to detect any early (or late) signs of glaucomatous damage to the optic nerve. In order to find and follow glaucoma, visual fields are measured by a computer one eye at a time. One eye is covered and the patient places his or her chin in a type of bowl. Lights of various intensity and size are randomly projected around inside of the bowl. When the patient sees a light, he or she pushes a button. This process produces a computerized map of the visual field, outlining the areas where each eye can or cannot see. In glaucoma, there are characteristic changes in the visual field examination.

Quick GuidePictures of Eyeglasses and Frames: Glasses for Presbyopia, Sunglasses, Eye Problems

Pictures of Eyeglasses and Frames: Glasses for Presbyopia, Sunglasses, Eye Problems

What is a visual field test?

A visual field test is a method of measuring an individual's entire scope of vision, that is their central and peripheral (side) vision. Visual field testing maps the visual fields of each eye individually and can detect blind spots (scotomas) as well as more subtle areas of dim vision. The visual field test is a subjective examination, so the patient must be able to understand the testing instructions, fully cooperate, and complete the entire test in order to provide useful information.

What is a visual field test used for?

Visual field testing is most frequently used to detect signs of glaucoma damage to the optic nerve. In addition, visual field tests are useful for detection of central or peripheral retinal diseases of the retina, eyelid conditions such as drooping (ptosis), optic nerve damage and disease, and conditions affecting the visual pathways from the optic nerve to the area of the brain (occipital cortex) where this information is processed into vision.

The following are uses of visual field testing:

  • Screening for glaucoma: Peripheral vision loss is often an early and subtle sign of glaucoma. Visual field tests are helpful in making the diagnosis of glaucoma, and repeat testing is used to monitor treatment.
  • Screening and testing for lid droop (ptosis)
  • Testing for toxicity from certain medications (for example, screening for toxicity from hydroxychloroquine [Plaquenil], which can affect the central retina)
  • Measuring the extent of retinal diseases, such as retinitis pigmentosa
  • Detecting conditions affecting the optic nerve, such as tumors, injury, poor circulation or stroke, optic neuropathy, swelling of the optic nerve (optic neuritis), compression from swelling in the eye socket or orbit, and severe nutrient deficiencies
  • Detecting conditions that affect the visual pathways from the optic nerves to the occipital lobe of the brain, including tumors, inflammatory disease, increased intracranial pressure, injury, poor circulation, or stroke
  • Testing for malingering behavior or factitious disorders
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/7/2017

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