A Visual Field Test

is a method of detecting central or peripheral retinal diseases, eyelid conditions, optic nerve disease, and diseases affecting the visual pathways within the brain.

What is a visual field test?

An important part of a medical eye exam is the use of a visual field test also known as perimetry, which detects decreases in peripheral vision or central vision that are usually not noticed by the patient.

The most common use of visual field testing is to detect any signs of optic nerve damage caused by glaucoma. Visual field tests can also detect retinal diseases, eyelid diseases such as ptosis or drooping, optic nerve diseases such as optic neuritis, and brain diseases affecting visual pathways. Vision is processed in the brain by the visual pathways that transport information from the front of the eye.

How is visual field testing done?

Visual fields can be measured using a variety of methods. One eye is typically tested at a time during visual field testing. In all tests, the patient must fixate on a central target. If you require glasses correction, you will be seated in front of the machine by a technician and appropriate lenses will be used. When the technician performs the test, they will make sure you are looking straight ahead at the fixation light, that your upper eyelid is not blocking your vision, and that your head is not too shifted.

What conditions does a visual field test diagnose?

A visual field test is an extremely important part of a comprehensive eye examination and is performed for a wide variety of conditions. When patients schedule a medical eye exam at our Olympia optometry clinic we often run a visual field test using our state of the art equipment.

Visual field testing is useful for:
  • Screening for glaucoma
  • Testing patients with glaucoma for treatment response
  • Screening and testing for lid droop or ptosis, particularly for insurance approval of lid lift surgical procedures
  • Determining whether you have blind spots in your vision (called scotomas) and where they are. The size and shape of a scotoma can indicate the type of eye disease or brain disorder affecting your vision.
  • Testing for diseases that impact the macula such as macular degeneration 
  • Identifying potential toxicity from certain medications such as Plaquenil used for rheumatoid arthritis
  • Testing for peripheral retinal disease such as retinal detachment or retinitis pigmentosa
  • Testing the function of the optic nerve looking for tumor, injury, poor circulation or stroke, compression from swelling in the eye socket or orbit, or severe dietary deficiency
  • Testing the visual pathways to the brain, looking for tumor, brain swelling, injury, or poor circulation
  • Testing the visual or occipital cortex, looking for tumor, injury, brain swelling, or poor circulation.
  • Identifying the impact of a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or other neurological conditions  on the visual system
  • Measuring the capacity of the brain to process visual information and project the image accurately into space. 
  • An assessment of how much space the patient is able to process and interact with at any one time.

Diabetes or diabetic retinopathy


Retinal Detachment

Age Related Macular Degeneration

What are the different types of visual field tests?

  • Electroretinography
  • Amsler grid: A basic visual field test for central vision
  • Confrontation visual field test
  • Automated static perimetry test
  • Kinetic or functional visual field test
  • Frequency doubling perimetry

How long should a visual field test last?

In general a visual field test takes a few minutes, however there are a variety of tests that depend on different factors such as the presence of a known condition, the ability to maintain concentration, and the goals of the eye doctor for the use of the test.
The length of the test may depend on the patient's ability to sustain concentration for extended periods of time. A longer visual field test is advised if the patient can tolerate it, whereas if the patient has trouble concentrating for five minutes but can manage two minutes, a shorter test would be best for them.
In case you are already suffering from vision loss or your vision is rapidly deteriorating, then our eye doctors will need to have the most accurate information possible. This would require a longer test to obtain more accurate information. On the other hand, if you have a very early loss of vision, a shorter test might be sufficient.
If you have early glaucoma or suspect that you have glaucoma, then again a shorter test might be sufficient for you. A standard visual field test might be more appropriate if you have more severe glaucoma and are older. Such patients should not be tested for a shorter period of time as that might produce abnormal results.

Why you should ensure that a visual field test is part of your eye exam

The visual field test is extremely valuable in the prevention, diagnosis, and management of a wide range of ocular diseases that impact our central, peripheral, and functional vision. Our eye doctors can detect early signs of ocular diseases using a visual field, measure the progression of the disease objectively, and determine how your disease is impacting your vision. Having a visual field test done by our eye doctors enables them to provide you with appropriate treatment or tools to improve your visual function and manage or treat your condition. Call us today at (360) 491-2121 to schedule a visual field and medical eye exam. Patients with visual field loss and central vision deficits visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of visual field testing for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
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