How to Get a Visual Field Test and Understand the Results

How to Get a Visual Field Test and Understand the Results

You might have heard that a visual field test is challenging, but it's not really that hard—and there's definitely nothing to be nervous about. Your eye doctor might recommend a visual field test as part of your annual eye exam, especially if they suspect you have glaucoma or other eye issues that are causing blind spots in your periphery. They'll most likely give you a Goldmann perimetry test, but there are a few other options they could use, as well.

Method 1 of 3:
Goldmann Perimetry

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Get a good night's sleep before the test. During your visual field test, you need to be awake and alert to get an accurate reading. The night before the test, be sure to get to bed at your normal bedtime, or a little earlier if you think you'll be able to fall asleep. Don't let your nerves about the test keep you up binge-watching the latest Netflix documentary! [1] X Research source In addition, avoid drinking excessive alcohol, and don't take any sleep aids (unless you're normally prescribed them by your doctor). These can make you feel groggy the next day, which might affect your test.
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Use a patch to cover the eye you're not testing. When you're ready to start the test, the technician will give you an eye patch. Fit the patch comfortably over your eye and close the uncovered eye to ensure you can't see anything through the patch. [2] X Trustworthy Source American Academy of Opthamologists Professional medical organization focused on advocating for public health and supporting sight-related research Go to source A visual field test only evaluates one eye at a time, so you'll need to switch the patch if you're having both eyes tested. It typically takes about 5-10 minutes to test each eye.[3] X Research source
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Sit in the chair in front of the machine. You should be shown to a chair in front of an instrument that's shaped like a bowl. This is a perimeter. Place your face in the bowl-shaped opening. [4] X Trustworthy Source American Academy of Opthamologists Professional medical organization focused on advocating for public health and supporting sight-related research Go to source The technician will lower a lens in front of your eye that matches your prescription to ensure you're able to see normally.[5] X Research source
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Look straight ahead into the light when the test starts. In the center of the screen, you'll see a yellow light. Listen carefully to the technician's instructions—they'll tell you to keep your gaze focused only on that center light. That can be a little hard when the lights start flashing, but it's important to keep trying. [6] X Trustworthy Source Johns Hopkins Medicine Official resource database of the world-leading Johns Hopkins Hospital Go to source The technician will be able to see your eye on another screen, so they'll tell you if your gaze wanders or your head shifts out of place. It's totally okay to blink like you normally would, so don't stress about keeping your eyes wide open the whole time.[7] X Trustworthy Source American Academy of Opthamologists Professional medical organization focused on advocating for public health and supporting sight-related research Go to source
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Press the button when you see lights flashing. As you stare at the yellow light, you'll start to see dim lights appearing on the screen one at a time. You'll be instructed to push a button every time you see one of these lights. However, don't stress out if you don't see every single light—that's actually how the test is designed, and it doesn't necessarily indicate a vision problem. [8] X Trustworthy Source American Academy of Opthamologists Professional medical organization focused on advocating for public health and supporting sight-related research Go to source A lot of people feel stressed out by vision field tests because they want to spot every light. However, up to a third of the lights will be intentionally placed in areas where you can't see them. Do not press the button if you don't see the light on the screen—it won't improve your test results, and it's important that your doctor get an accurate reading.
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Hold the response button if you need to pause the test. If you start to feel tired or you just need a moment, press and hold the button you were given. When you let go of the button, the test will start again. [9] X Research source You can also ask the technician to pause the test, if you prefer.
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Method 2 of 3:
Other Tests

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Expect to perform a confrontation test as a preliminary exam. During a controntation visual field exam, your doctor will sit a short distance in front of you. They'll ask you to look directly at them, then they'll hold up their hand and move it back and forth. You'll then signal when their hand appears in your vision. [10] X Research source This will give the doctor a general idea of your peripheral vision, so they may use it as an initial diagnostic tool. It may also be helpful for smaller children who would have a harder time with a more focused test.
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2
Look for blurry lines in an Amsler grid test. If you have to take this test, you'll be asked to look at a small dot right in the center of a grid. Then, you'll indicate if there are any areas of the grid that look blurry. [11] X Research source This test isn't as precise as a Goldmann perimeter test, but it can give the doctor a general idea of where you might be experiencing vision loss. It's also sometimes used for children.
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3
Track moving lights in a kinetic visual field test. A Goldmann perimeter test uses static flashing lights to determine if there are any blind spots in your vision, but it isn't precise enough to define the borders of those blind spots. A kinetic visual field test is more accurate, because it uses moving lights to more closely identify where your blind spots begin and end. [12] X Trustworthy Source American Academy of Opthamologists Professional medical organization focused on advocating for public health and supporting sight-related research Go to source The lights will be different sizes and brightness options. They'll start in an area you can't see, then gradually move into your field of vision. You'll press a button to indicate when you see the light appear.[13] X Research source
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4
Look at flickering bars in a frequency doubling perimetry test. During this test, you'll look into a small, portable machine. Flickering vertical lights will appear on the screen, and you'll press a button when you see them appear. The first few targets will be unscored to allow you to get comfortable with the test, then you'll move into the actual test once you feel more comfortable with it. [14] X Research source You can wear your normal contacts or glasses for this test. Don't worry if you don't get it perfect—there's a margin of error built into the test.[15] X Research source
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5
Let your doctor know if you need any special accomodations. If there's any reason you feel like you might have trouble sitting through the visual field test, let your eye doctor know. They may be able to accomodate you. [16] X Research source For instance, if you have a hard time sitting for long periods of time or you have trouble with attention, your doctor may administer a shorter test.
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Method 3 of 3:
Results and Follow-Up

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1
Go over the results of the test with your doctor. When you take a visual field test, your doctor will use the results to determine whether you have any blind spots in your peripheral vision. These often indicate the onset of glaucoma, which is caused by a buildup of pressure in your eye. [17] X Trustworthy Source American Academy of Opthamologists Professional medical organization focused on advocating for public health and supporting sight-related research Go to source A visual field test might also be used to determine if issues with your eyelids are blocking your vision. Different criteria will be used to interpret your results based on how old you are, so try asking your doctor how you compared to people your age.[18] X Trustworthy Source Johns Hopkins Medicine Official resource database of the world-leading Johns Hopkins Hospital Go to source
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2
Talk to your doctor about a treatment plan, if necessary. If you're diagnosed with glaucoma, it's especially important to begin a treatment plan right away. Vision loss due to glaucoma can't be reversed, so it's essential that you and your doctor try to limit future damage to preserve as much of your vision as possible. To do this, your doctor may direct you to use prescription eye drops or take medication each day. They also may recommend laser treatment or surgery. [19] X Trustworthy Source Mayo Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source If your vision loss is due to a cause like drooping eyelids, they may recommend a procedure called a blepharoplasty to correct it.[20] X Trustworthy Source Mayo Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source
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3
Return for followup tests as recommended by your eye doctor. Once your doctor establishes your baseline field of vision, they'll likely have you return to complete the test again regularly. If your vision loss is severe, you might come back in just a few months. If it's less severe, you might repeat the test once a year. [21] X Research source Repeating the test will allow your eye doctor to check whether your vision has continued to deteriorate and whether your treatment is effective. In addition, there's a learning curve with visual field tests, so your doctor may want to run a second test shortly after the first to establish an accurate baseline.
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Method 1 of 3:
Goldmann Perimetry

Image titled Do a Visual Field Test Step 1
1
Get a good night's sleep before the test. During your visual field test, you need to be awake and alert to get an accurate reading. The night before the test, be sure to get to bed at your normal bedtime, or a little earlier if you think you'll be able to fall asleep. Don't let your nerves about the test keep you up binge-watching the latest Netflix documentary! [1] X Research source In addition, avoid drinking excessive alcohol, and don't take any sleep aids (unless you're normally prescribed them by your doctor). These can make you feel groggy the next day, which might affect your test.
Image titled Do a Visual Field Test Step 2
2
Use a patch to cover the eye you're not testing. When you're ready to start the test, the technician will give you an eye patch. Fit the patch comfortably over your eye and close the uncovered eye to ensure you can't see anything through the patch. [2] X Trustworthy Source American Academy of Opthamologists Professional medical organization focused on advocating for public health and supporting sight-related research Go to source A visual field test only evaluates one eye at a time, so you'll need to switch the patch if you're having both eyes tested. It typically takes about 5-10 minutes to test each eye.[3] X Research source
Image titled Do a Visual Field Test Step 3
3
Sit in the chair in front of the machine. You should be shown to a chair in front of an instrument that's shaped like a bowl. This is a perimeter. Place your face in the bowl-shaped opening. [4] X Trustworthy Source American Academy of Opthamologists Professional medical organization focused on advocating for public health and supporting sight-related research Go to source The technician will lower a lens in front of your eye that matches your prescription to ensure you're able to see normally.[5] X Research source
Image titled Do a Visual Field Test Step 4
4
Look straight ahead into the light when the test starts. In the center of the screen, you'll see a yellow light. Listen carefully to the technician's instructions—they'll tell you to keep your gaze focused only on that center light. That can be a little hard when the lights start flashing, but it's important to keep trying. [6] X Trustworthy Source Johns Hopkins Medicine Official resource database of the world-leading Johns Hopkins Hospital Go to source The technician will be able to see your eye on another screen, so they'll tell you if your gaze wanders or your head shifts out of place. It's totally okay to blink like you normally would, so don't stress about keeping your eyes wide open the whole time.[7] X Trustworthy Source American Academy of Opthamologists Professional medical organization focused on advocating for public health and supporting sight-related research Go to source
Image titled Do a Visual Field Test Step 5
5
Press the button when you see lights flashing. As you stare at the yellow light, you'll start to see dim lights appearing on the screen one at a time. You'll be instructed to push a button every time you see one of these lights. However, don't stress out if you don't see every single light—that's actually how the test is designed, and it doesn't necessarily indicate a vision problem. [8] X Trustworthy Source American Academy of Opthamologists Professional medical organization focused on advocating for public health and supporting sight-related research Go to source A lot of people feel stressed out by vision field tests because they want to spot every light. However, up to a third of the lights will be intentionally placed in areas where you can't see them. Do not press the button if you don't see the light on the screen—it won't improve your test results, and it's important that your doctor get an accurate reading.
Image titled Do a Visual Field Test Step 6
6
Hold the response button if you need to pause the test. If you start to feel tired or you just need a moment, press and hold the button you were given. When you let go of the button, the test will start again. [9] X Research source You can also ask the technician to pause the test, if you prefer.
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Method 2 of 3:
Other Tests

Image titled Do a Visual Field Test Step 7
1
Expect to perform a confrontation test as a preliminary exam. During a controntation visual field exam, your doctor will sit a short distance in front of you. They'll ask you to look directly at them, then they'll hold up their hand and move it back and forth. You'll then signal when their hand appears in your vision. [10] X Research source This will give the doctor a general idea of your peripheral vision, so they may use it as an initial diagnostic tool. It may also be helpful for smaller children who would have a harder time with a more focused test.
Image titled Do a Visual Field Test Step 8
2
Look for blurry lines in an Amsler grid test. If you have to take this test, you'll be asked to look at a small dot right in the center of a grid. Then, you'll indicate if there are any areas of the grid that look blurry. [11] X Research source This test isn't as precise as a Goldmann perimeter test, but it can give the doctor a general idea of where you might be experiencing vision loss. It's also sometimes used for children.
Image titled Do a Visual Field Test Step 9
3
Track moving lights in a kinetic visual field test. A Goldmann perimeter test uses static flashing lights to determine if there are any blind spots in your vision, but it isn't precise enough to define the borders of those blind spots. A kinetic visual field test is more accurate, because it uses moving lights to more closely identify where your blind spots begin and end. [12] X Trustworthy Source American Academy of Opthamologists Professional medical organization focused on advocating for public health and supporting sight-related research Go to source The lights will be different sizes and brightness options. They'll start in an area you can't see, then gradually move into your field of vision. You'll press a button to indicate when you see the light appear.[13] X Research source
Image titled Do a Visual Field Test Step 10
4
Look at flickering bars in a frequency doubling perimetry test. During this test, you'll look into a small, portable machine. Flickering vertical lights will appear on the screen, and you'll press a button when you see them appear. The first few targets will be unscored to allow you to get comfortable with the test, then you'll move into the actual test once you feel more comfortable with it. [14] X Research source You can wear your normal contacts or glasses for this test. Don't worry if you don't get it perfect—there's a margin of error built into the test.[15] X Research source
Image titled Do a Visual Field Test Step 11
5
Let your doctor know if you need any special accomodations. If there's any reason you feel like you might have trouble sitting through the visual field test, let your eye doctor know. They may be able to accomodate you. [16] X Research source For instance, if you have a hard time sitting for long periods of time or you have trouble with attention, your doctor may administer a shorter test.
Advertisement

Method 3 of 3:
Results and Follow-Up

Image titled Do a Visual Field Test Step 12
1
Go over the results of the test with your doctor. When you take a visual field test, your doctor will use the results to determine whether you have any blind spots in your peripheral vision. These often indicate the onset of glaucoma, which is caused by a buildup of pressure in your eye. [17] X Trustworthy Source American Academy of Opthamologists Professional medical organization focused on advocating for public health and supporting sight-related research Go to source A visual field test might also be used to determine if issues with your eyelids are blocking your vision. Different criteria will be used to interpret your results based on how old you are, so try asking your doctor how you compared to people your age.[18] X Trustworthy Source Johns Hopkins Medicine Official resource database of the world-leading Johns Hopkins Hospital Go to source
Image titled Do a Visual Field Test Step 13
2
Talk to your doctor about a treatment plan, if necessary. If you're diagnosed with glaucoma, it's especially important to begin a treatment plan right away. Vision loss due to glaucoma can't be reversed, so it's essential that you and your doctor try to limit future damage to preserve as much of your vision as possible. To do this, your doctor may direct you to use prescription eye drops or take medication each day. They also may recommend laser treatment or surgery. [19] X Trustworthy Source Mayo Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source If your vision loss is due to a cause like drooping eyelids, they may recommend a procedure called a blepharoplasty to correct it.[20] X Trustworthy Source Mayo Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source
Image titled Do a Visual Field Test Step 14
3
Return for followup tests as recommended by your eye doctor. Once your doctor establishes your baseline field of vision, they'll likely have you return to complete the test again regularly. If your vision loss is severe, you might come back in just a few months. If it's less severe, you might repeat the test once a year. [21] X Research source Repeating the test will allow your eye doctor to check whether your vision has continued to deteriorate and whether your treatment is effective. In addition, there's a learning curve with visual field tests, so your doctor may want to run a second test shortly after the first to establish an accurate baseline.
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