A woman holding up a giant black circle in front of the sun.

Blind Spot: Look Over There!

A common symptom people first experience before being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) is optic neuritis. Optic neuritis is basically inflammation of the optic nerve(s) and most commonly results in blurred vision, but can also cause people to experience things such as color blindness, eye pain, flashing lights, and blindness of varying degrees in the affected eye.1

In the weeks leading up to my diagnosis, blurred vision was one of my first symptoms, and my vision has never fully recovered. I started wearing glasses after my diagnosis, and I can’t imagine I will ever not need them. While glasses help with the blurry vision, they don’t help with other aspects of optic neuritis that I have experienced, such as minor color blindness, the quick flashes of white light I saw a few times while trying to fall asleep, or the small blind spot in the peripheral of my left eye.

A visual field test

I wasn’t hit with this small blind spot for a while, but when it did? It was kind of scary, because I first noticed it while driving… I noticed that when I was looking straight ahead, the cars in the oncoming lanes to my left would disappear for a second before reappearing and passing me by. When I realized this wasn’t just a fluke but an ongoing issue, I made an appointment with my optometrist who did a visual field test.

If you have never done a visual field test, here's what it was like for me. You sit in front of this large, white dome thing and stare at the red dot in the center while covering one eye. Once the test begins, little green dots will start randomly appearing in the white dome and every time you see one, you press a button. After doing this for both eyes, the computer is able to see which green dots you did and didn’t see. This data is printed out on an image containing two circles, which obviously represent your eyes and allows you to see where in your field of vision you couldn’t see any of the green dots.

Problems with my peripheral vision

When we looked at my first visual field test results, the left side of my left eye was completely black (black spots in the results represent where your eye didn’t see any of the dots)! But let me just say this: it wasn’t as dramatic as it may sound. It’s not like half of the world around me was dark; it was more like a spot of blurred colors that I mostly only noticed when I was doing something that required me to pay attention to my peripheral vision like driving.

Anyway, I quickly learned to compensate for it, and I never really had any real issues. While it never prevented me from doing something that I wanted or needed to do, it was (and still is) just really annoying and sometimes frustrating. Over the years, that blind spot would get better and worse until eventually it seemed to settle down and only a small circle of blackness was now showing up on the peripheral field test. After I stopped driving (for other MS-related reasons) several years later, I started noticing my blind spot getting in the way of other things I do.

Other situations when I notice my blind spot

I’ll sometimes notice my blind spot when I am working on the computer, watching TV, or playing certain video games with a friend. None of that stuff is really a big deal at all but again, to me? It’s really annoying! Either way, for the most part, I have learned to work around it, but every now and then, especially when it seems to be flaring up, that small void in my vision will be obviously present. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed a headline on the news because my blind spot was in the way! But who cares, that’s what the DVR is for, rewinding and pausing, right?

As far as my “leisure time” is concerned, I usually have a friend over once a week to play “Smash,” a fighting game for the Nintendo Switch, and that is when I really notice it. It’s a pretty fast-paced game where each player picks a character and fights each other on a stage where there is lots of stuff going on. While my opponent and I are fighting, I’ll see my character disappear for a second and then reappear when moving across the screen, and in that small moment of time, there is so much that can happen and it’s not good stuff, not for me that is.

What my blind spot really looks like

Again, those are just a few frivolous, random examples of when I’m really aware of my blind spot, but none of that really describes the spot itself. This is how I would describe it: If you were to hold a small coin in front of you, with your arm fully extended, that’s about the size of my blind spot. It doesn’t sound like much, but try this. Hold a coin in front of you and stand really close to a TV. Not that much is hidden, right? But now stand as far away from the TV as you can. All of a sudden that small, coin-sized blind spot is covering up a lot more of the screen than it did when you were right in front of it.

For me, it’s like I have that coin in front of me at all times, but instead of a coin, it’s just a blurry spot of colors. Still not sure how such a tiny spot could be so in the way? Well, to further illustrate how the distance between me and whatever I’m looking at determines how much my blind spot hides, hold a coin up at the sun. That coin can pretty much block out the whole thing, even though the sun is incredibly large compared to the coin you’re holding. So, basically, the further away something is from me, the higher the chance is that I won’t even notice that it’s there. That said, if you ever point at something in the distance and say, “look at that!” and you see me tilt and turn my head a bit while trying to look? That’s why. I’m simply trying to move my blind spot out of the way.

Do you deal with any kind of blind spots? Do they affect your daily life? Have you found that anything helps, or have you learned to compensate? Share your experience below!

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