What causes temporary tunnel vision?

25 March 2021

Author: Kate Green

Temporary tunnel vision

What is tunnel vision?


Tunnel vision is a visual defect which affects your peripheral vision, narrowing the field of what you can see. Your side vision may disappear completely, allowing you to only see a small circle in front of your eyes. While loss of peripheral vision can sometimes be permanent, tunnel vision is often temporary and can be caused by a number of factors. It can be quite unsettling if tunnel vision comes on quickly and you haven’t experienced it before, so it’s important that you know what causes it, and what you can do to avoid it in the future.


What are the symptoms of tunnel vision?


You might not even notice tunnel vision in the early stages of it coming on. People usually begin to notice the effects when they can no longer see 40 degrees or more from their peripheral vision. Of course, if your tunnel vision has come on quickly and temporarily, you are likely to notice the visual changes, but if it is a more long term condition, appearing slowly, chances are you may not even be aware of its progression in the early stages.


The symptoms that may indicate gradual onset of tunnel vision are:

  • Bumping into objects
  • Falling over
  • Night blindness
  • Lack of spatial awareness


Even if we don’t feel like we rely on our peripheral vision that much from day to day, it actually helps us significantly when it comes to spatial awareness and night vision. Having no peripheral vision really affects how well we can see in the dark, so having tunnel vision in night time scenarios can actually be quite dangerous.


Why does tunnel vision occur?


Tunnel vision can occur either temporarily or permanently. Temporary tunnel vision is less serious than permanent tunnel vision as, firstly, it goes away on its own, and secondly, its causes usually aren’t anything that will threaten your sight or eye health.


Causes of temporary tunnel vision are:

  • Ocular migraines
  • Anxiety or sudden rush of adrenaline
  • Alcohol or drug consumption


Ocular migraines are caused by a restriction to the flow of blood into the eye. You can read more about ocular migraines and their causes on our blog, but one of the effects of them is the temporary loss of peripheral vision. Ocular migraines tend to come on quickly and not last for more than a few hours, but it’s still important to visit a doctor after your first instance of one. This is just to check that there are no underlying conditions causing it, and that your eyes are in good health.


Anger, panic or stress can cause a sudden rush of adrenaline which is known to occasionally cause tunnel vision. In this case, the tunnel vision comes on quickly but also disappears quickly once you are feeling calmer. Losing your peripheral vision like this can be very worrying, especially if you haven’t experienced it before, so you may wish to consult your doctor after experiencing this for the first time.


Consuming alcohol or hallucinogenic drugs could also be a reason as to why you have tunnel vision. Taken on a short-term basis, the effects are likely to be temporary. However, if you regularly consume these kinds of substances in excess, it is possible that your peripheral vision could be affected permanently, leading to irreversible tunnel vision.


Causes of permanent tunnel vision are:


Losing your peripheral vision and having to live each day with tunnel vision is incredibly serious. It’s important that you have regular eye tests with your optician to monitor your eye health and make you aware of any changes early on. With most eye conditions, the sooner you receive treatment, the higher the chances are of saving your eyesight.


Should I see a doctor about temporary tunnel vision?


If you regularly experience temporary tunnel vision and it’s beginning to affect your day to day life, it’s important to visit your doctor. This can help you find out the cause of it and discuss any lifestyle adjustments you can make or any steps you can take to mitigate its effects.

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