Eccentric Viewing

One of the most common complaints patients with macular degeneration share with us is that they are unable to see their loved ones’ faces. Recently, a distraught patient told us that her grandson “looked like a gray blob” when she tried to look at him opening his birthday presents.

We are trained from a very young age to aim our eyes directly at the object of interest because the central vision provides the best clarity, details, and colors. When one develops an eye disease affecting the health of the macula, such as macular degeneration or Stargardt’s disease, the central vision is compromised. Patients will often complain of central blur, distortion or a blind spot.

It is important to remember the following:

  • Macular degeneration or Stargardt’s disease never leads to a total loss of vision.
  • A blind-spot follows one’s eye movements.
  • The peripheral retina surrounding the damaged central macula can compensate (to some degree) for a loss of central vision!

This technique of looking around the blind spot to view the object of interest is called eccentric viewing. There is typically one direction of gaze that yields the best result (called preferred retinal locus), and this location varies from person to person.

One of the ways to identify one’s preferred retinal locus is using a clock dial method. Have your loved one sit directly in front of you. Compare how their face looks when you look directly at their eyes, versus looking toward the top of their head (12 o’clock), toward their left ear (your 3 o’clock), toward their chin (6 o’clock) or toward their right ear (your 9 o’clock). Does your loved one’s face look clearer when you look at a certain position?

When you locate the best position, start to practice looking at things in that manner. For example, if the best position is 3 o’clock, spend a few minutes a couple of times a day training yourself to look at things in the 3 o’clock position. This will feel strange and uncomfortable at first but with consistent practice, it will become much more natural.

Eccentric viewing can help individuals to optimize their remaining vision and improve their visual function when engaging in daily activities. At Spectrios, we can work with you to identify and train your preferred retinal locus. Call us at 630-690-7115 to schedule a comprehensive low vision exam!