Five patterns of vision loss

I gave a workshop on vision loss and wanted people to understand a little of what it’s like to have partial sight.

Everyone blind or partially sighted is completely different from everyone else blind or partially sighted. In fact everyone, sighted or not, has different vision from every other person in the world, but it took loss of vision for me to realize this.

But although no two of us are identical, there are some patterns to sight loss. And so I sketched five basic geometries. I think my audience found this helpful, and I learned a lot from thinking about them and trying to draw the pictures.

Where I’ve shown black please don’t think a person will necessarily see black. They might in some cases, but very often the black just means there is no visual information. I have a very large blind spot. But I’m not aware of it until I can’t see something. You can’t put that in a picture. Black would be wrong and so would white. You can’t draw nothingness.

Here are my drawings.


Blurred text


Centre of picture distorted by wavy vertical line


Large central area completely obscured


Tunnel vision - everything obscured except central area


Right-hand half of visual field totally obscured

If you want to know more this website is a good one.



About partialinsight

One evening I had a stroke. Half my sight vanished overnight. Adapting made me grasp how amazing the visual system and brain are. It also taught me to understand disability completely differently and I'm grateful for the lesson.
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4 Responses to Five patterns of vision loss

  1. Is scotoma similar to macular degeneration? I developed complete left hemiaopia ten years ago. Initially, it really bothered me. Now, like you, I don’t really notice it until something causes this awareness to abruptly be brought to my attention.

    • A scotoma is any area of vision loss, permanent or temporary, and macular degeneration a possible cause but there could be lots of others. Because my hemianopia is not complete – there is some residual sight on the very far right – I would say I have a large scotoma. A blind spot really.

      Like you the hemianopia doesn’t bother me much now but not being able to drive is a major headache.

  2. jublke says:

    I am blind in one eye and what I see doesn’t look like any of those drawings. It’s like I have one eye with normal vision, Including peripheral vision, a gap where my nose is (no idea how to describe that), and an entire right side that’s all peripheral vision. I never even realized that I saw anything on my blind side until I learned to drive. I drive pretty well – took me forever to learn! – but I can’t park worth a darn.

    Best wishes for your continued recovery!

    • Thanks Jublke, that’s really interesting! So you can see something in the blind eye and it helps with driving, but it’s as though it’s all peripheral vision, if I understood you right.

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