What Causes Tunnel Vision?

Shannon Kietzman
Shannon Kietzman
Hallucinogenic drugs may cause tunnel vision.
Hallucinogenic drugs may cause tunnel vision.

Tunnel vision is a medical condition that results in a loss of peripheral vision. As a result, the patient can only see objects from within a circular field. This condition has many possible causes, including problems in the brain, some eye diseases, hallucinogenic drugs, and certain extreme activities.

Blood loss to parts of the brain can lead to tunnel vision, as can a tumor pressing against the optic never fibers. A person who is exposed to air that has been contaminated by oils and hydraulic fluids, such as may happen in an airplane, may also develop this condition. Becoming ill while in an aircraft can cause temporary vision problems.

Extreme stress may cause tunnel vision.
Extreme stress may cause tunnel vision.

Certain diseases of the eye may also lead to tunnel vision. Retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited condition that may ultimately lead to blindness, can be a cause. Typically, this disorder begins to show itself as night blindness, which then leads to a loss of peripheral vision, and eventually to blindness. Not all people with the disorder go blind, however.

Fighter pilots may experience tunnel vision during sustained high acceleration.
Fighter pilots may experience tunnel vision during sustained high acceleration.

Glaucoma, a disease affecting the optic nerve, can also cause tunnel vision. The pressure placed on the optic nerve causes the eye to lose retinal ganglion cells, which can eventually cause the patient to go blind. For some patients, a loss of peripheral vision may be experienced prior to blindness.

Use of hallucinogenic drugs can also cause damage to the brain and to the nerves, which can result in permanent or temporary tunnel vision. Extreme stress, such as that experienced during a panic attack, is another possible cause. Specific activities and sports can also cause a temporary loss of peripheral vision. Fighter pilots and acrobats, for example, may experience this problem during sustained high acceleration of one or more seconds. In this case, the person may also lose consciousness.

Tunnel vision results in a loss of peripheral vision.
Tunnel vision results in a loss of peripheral vision.

Exposure to oxygen at a pressure above 1.5 to two atmospheres can be toxic to the central nervous system. This most often occurs when diving. In addition to tunnel vision, this oxygen pressure can result in fatigue, dizziness, blindness, nausea, confusion, anxiety, and lack of coordination. When a loss of peripheral vision strikes a person engaged in an activity such as driving or piloting an aircraft, it can result in death, because the individual is unable to see properly.

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Discussion Comments


I am 61 year old male. I recently awoke from a night of sleep and that morning I noticed that I had a loss of peripheral vision in my right eye only. The left eye is fine. I have no family history of eye problems nor did I ever have any eye problems other than reading glasses from an eye exam a few years ago. Is this something I should be concerned about? I have no pain at all, not even a headache.


I was snorting a legal high for nearly three days. The urge to redose and reach a high was the reason I didn't stop. I ended up swallowing quite a large amount and then, all of a sudden, my vision switched to tunnel. I was so messed up I didn't realize it was caused by the drug and thought it was because I was looking at the computer with the lights off. However, I caught on and panicked when I saw that it could be permanent. I forced my eyes shut and didn't open them until morning, hoping it would go away. Morning came, and when I opened my eyes, it was still there. I tried not to panic and performed eye exercises looking out the window at the sunny day. After a few hours my vision was back to normal, but it was not a good experience.


I recently had pacemaker surgery (47 years old) and after surgery I told them I could not see right. No one would address my vision issues at all.

Now I am on my second specialist who has discovered I now have tunnel vision and not sure what else, but they are possibly going to revoke my driving privileges.

I have a question: during my surgery my oxygen levels got so low that they had to wake me during surgery. I remember being awake and the pain of the surgery. I also remember the surgeon and anesthesiologist "getting into it" because I was "aware/awake". Could this lack of oxygen be the cause, or something that could have caused this sudden vision change and tunnel vision? It's quite severe.

One other question: is there any connection between M.S. and tunnel vision? They have been questioning whether I have M.S., and that is why I ask.


I'm 13 and I've had this for at least a year and half. I didn't realize I had tunnel vision until right now. When it happened, I didn't take it too seriously, but now I'm starting to worry. It doesn't happen too often, but now I'm definitely thinking about getting it checked out.


I'm 13 and I have tunnel vision once and a while. The doctor says I'm fine but I am a bit of a worrier and still think I have a brain tumor.


I have tunnel vision too. For almost the last 6 to 8 years, I've felt it. It comes and goes. Sometimes I notice that it happens every four to 6 months. I have migraines and must sleep by force to get rid of it. It causes so much pain. I consulted a doctor in Malaysia, he found no issue in my eye. I haven't experienced it in the last year.


For those of you who get it after standing up, and it goes away after a few seconds, it is a problem with your blood circulation control center. When you stand up the blood has to get quickly to your brain, which is now higher than your heart. I have this problem which means I can get tunnel vision and even pass out due to a slight lag in the blood going to my brain. Drink a lot, and be careful when standing quickly, and you'll be fine.


I get tunnel vision when i look through a door spy hole, or at the cinema, or when it's pitch black. I've had it since i was about 12. these things trigger it off but it's so frustrating and makes driving very difficult. I'm scared and don't want it.


I'm 15 and i have temporary tunnel vision from time to time. i have symptoms like nausea, migraines, dizziness, and from time to time pass out. it seems uncontrollable to me and when it happens i feel so uneasy.

my doctor said that it sounds like some type glitch. so I'm having to get a ct scan and an ekg scan. so i strongly suggest that anyone having any of these symptoms should talk to their doctor. I've had tunnel vision for a very long time, pretty much since i was 10, and it just gets worse every year. it lasts longer and causes more irritations. so please, talk to your doctors to be on the safe side.


I used to get temporary tunnel vision and pass out after smoking pot when I was younger. It stopped when I stopped smoking pot. Presently I have intraocular hypertension, which means high eye pressures without damage. No family history of intraocular hypertension in my family.


I'm 18 and just started to experience tunnel vision. It only happens when I stand up or when I turn around. And it doesn't happen very often. But when it does happen it only lasts for a few seconds. I also wear glasses. But I’ve had them for years and this just started to happen about two weeks ago. I would just like to know why it's happening.


I just had tunnel vision that lasted for about 10 minutes. I looked it up and came to this website. The person who said to close your eyes and take four deep breaths was absolutely right. It worked! I have only had tunnel vision once before and it was before the onset of a migraine.


I'm 12, and i get tunnel vision most times that i stand up. what i do is close my eyes and hold on to something so i don't fall over, it usually works.


I used to get lots of tunnel vision, especially while in a cafe, bar or pub. All noises got louder, couldn't concentrate, etc.

well if anyone wants to know how to get rid of it, this is how to do it. It works!

Just close your eyes and take deep breaths (I usually take two or three deep breaths) and imagine myself being whole, and normal again.

If it doesn't work, repeat.

Three to four deep breaths should do the trick. it always pulls me back to normal.


I suffered a severe brain injury several years back which left me with permanent tunnel vision. You get used to it but it causes anxiety attacks to come on more easily living in that state.


i get tunnel vision while doing activities, when i stand up, and even when I'm just walking around. Can anyone tell me why?


i get tunnel vision while driving especially when driving between symmetrical items such as bridge rails or cones. i get it to the point of having to pull over and want to know how to fix it.


i'm 13 and i think i have tunnel vision but i'm not sure. sometimes like once a week when i get up from sitting or lying down or am very nervous. i also get dizzy with it. is thps normal? ~meghan


I'll get it if I'm focusing on the tv or if I'm sending a text message or just focusing on any object for an extended time period. is this a problem?


some times i get tunnel vision for three to five minutes once every two to three months. this has been happening for about eight years. can you tell me why?


Today I had a panic attack because I thought that my daughter was in the train that collided in DC. I had the Tunnel Vision effect and thought that I was going to collapse. My reaction was to breath slowly, concentrate and do what ever I could to relax. It lasted for about 3 to 5 minutes. I do have high blood pressure, and I do believe that it had something to do about it. Do I need to worry about it?

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    • Hallucinogenic drugs may cause tunnel vision.
      By: Monkey Business
      Hallucinogenic drugs may cause tunnel vision.
    • Extreme stress may cause tunnel vision.
      By: Laurin Rinder
      Extreme stress may cause tunnel vision.
    • Fighter pilots may experience tunnel vision during sustained high acceleration.
      By: emiliau
      Fighter pilots may experience tunnel vision during sustained high acceleration.
    • Tunnel vision results in a loss of peripheral vision.
      By: blueringmedia
      Tunnel vision results in a loss of peripheral vision.
    • Glaucoma can cause tunnel vision.
      By: joshya
      Glaucoma can cause tunnel vision.
    • Tunnel vision occurs when a patient can only see objects from within a circular field.
      By: arztsamui
      Tunnel vision occurs when a patient can only see objects from within a circular field.