Sudden partial blindness -- what's it like?
November 22, 2007 12:05 AM   Subscribe

Are you blind in one eye? Please give a newbie advice.

A friend of mine lost sight in one eye in a squash accident. He's freaking out. Apparently he has very peripheral vision in the damaged eye but is as good as blind looking forward. Now he gets a headache reading or watching TV. What can he expect? Will he be able to read normally with practice? Is driving entirely out of the question? How long does it take to adjust?
posted by creasy boy to Health & Fitness (18 answers total)
It will take awhile to adjust, but yes he will be able to live a "normal" life. It's just a matter of adjusting to the difference in (and loss of) depth perception. When I was an optometrist's assitant, we had several patients who were blind in one eye who had adjusted enough to be able to drive safely and live a normal life. (Please encourage your friend to visit an optometrist or opthalmologist for an exam and advice).
posted by amyms at 12:20 AM on November 22, 2007

He'll probably be fine after a short adjustment period, but it depends greatly on the exact nature of his injury. Why isn't he asking his doctors?

I completely lost vision in one eye at the age of 7, due to an injury. I don't recall any particular adjustment period being necessary; never had problems reading or watching TV. I can drive just fine, although I'm more careful than most people. (There were no particular problems getting a license, either.)

I imagine your friend's problems are due to trying to use a partially-damaged eye at the same time as a normal one -- and unfortunately I can't help you with coping strategies for that. Perhaps someone at might be more helpful?
posted by xil at 12:23 AM on November 22, 2007

I've been blind in one eye for quite some time, most people don't know unless I tell them and I don't tell many people, the headaches will pass, (I used to have some doozies when I was younger) your body will adapt, you just can't do those stereoscopic pictures or get the full effect of 3D movies.
posted by kanemano at 12:34 AM on November 22, 2007

In a recent case about monocular drivers in California, the experts for the plaintiffs explained that monocular drivers were safe when they had one "good" eye and the other eye had peripheral vision -- just like your friend.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:35 AM on November 22, 2007

I'm blind in my right eye. I had no trouble driving once I got over my nerves about it! Check the policies of the local driver's licencing dept though - he may need a report or some such from an opthalmologist (I did). Otherwise - occasionally he will walk into doorframes, sometimes people will slam into him on the blind side because he doesn't see them, and magic eye puzzles and 3D movies are out.

I'm not sure about the rules where your friend is, but if his eyesight affects his daily living skills he may be able to register as disabled (partially-sighted) and may be able to access resources/ adaptations to assist. I was eligible for a free bus pass in one place I lived.

Your friend should definitely visit an optometrist, his good eye may need some correction and they may be able to advise re: the headaches.

Welcome to the cyclops club, friend of creasyboy!
posted by goo at 2:30 AM on November 22, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you for all the answers so far. He's seeing doctors for medical advice, it's just the rest of his life that he's depressed about, but the answers so far sound very good and helpful. We're in Europe, in case that matters.
posted by creasy boy at 2:35 AM on November 22, 2007

I've been blind in my left eye since birth, with about 5% vision split between the peripheries with a cataract.

He will be fine. Hitting a baseball will be harder, and squash will be harder, but he will be able to drive just fine. My license requires that I have a left side mirror. Since every car world-wide has one, no problem.

He's gonna adjust.

Feel free to drop me a line for questions.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:59 AM on November 22, 2007

(I have no personal experience to draw on but given that he's depressed about what he can or can't do with the rest of his life, maybe it's not entirely useless to mention here that Gordon Brown is entirely blind in one eye?)
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 3:45 AM on November 22, 2007

Blind (some peripheral vision) in my left eye since birth, so I can't talk about coping with adjusting to a new situation, but driving, reading, general coordination and mobility has never been a problem compared to other folks. In fact, I tend to forget I have this disability unless reminded by reading things like your question. It's perfectly possible to lead a fully functional life with only one eye. The biggest problem I have is in a few situations where stereoscopic vision really matters. Catching can be a problem - don't ask me to join your baseball or cricket team.

I'd be more worried about the headaches - talk to a doctor.
posted by normy at 4:35 AM on November 22, 2007

Game Warden, I'm not sure if it technically counts as "blind in one eye" when the eye in question is a prosthetic device. No, he can't see out of it, but then, it isn't really an eye, either...
posted by DarlingBri at 6:44 AM on November 22, 2007

I think I have the exact same thing Ironmouth has. Blind in my right eye since birth with a cataract, and my life is fine. Of course I didn't have an adjustment period but the brain is a powerful organ and paths will rewire as needed over time.

The only time I'm reminded of the lack of depth perception is when I try to shoot a basketball from the line (sideways to the backboard) and can't even come close. Otherwise, everything else is fine (but then I never had stereoscopic vision to compare against), driving if perfectly fine and safe.
posted by mathowie at 8:20 AM on November 22, 2007

Chiming in to say I'm a cyclops-since-birth, too.

Life is completely normal, except for not being able to do the magic eye puzzles.

Your friend's headaches are due to the fact that his brain is accustomed to utilizing information from that eye, and now the incoming information is all out of wack. His brain should adjust within a few weeks.
posted by paddingtonb at 8:37 AM on November 22, 2007

Lost my right eye in an accident in high school.

How about some tips:

Pour items by touching them together first. After my injury, I was still trying to pour things by sight. It doesn't work so well - I poured things all over my hands several time before I figured it out.

Try putting an eyepatch on the good eye and 'use' the bad eye for a few hours every so often. It'll slow the inevitable 'wandering eye' syndrome.

His ping-pong career is over, unfortunately.
posted by unixrat at 8:47 AM on November 22, 2007

Game Warden, I'm not sure if it technically counts as "blind in one eye" when the eye in question is a prosthetic device. No, he can't see out of it, but then, it isn't really an eye, either...

Eh, I say this all the time and I have a prosthetic. It is much easier (and succinct) to say 'I'm blind in one eye' than 'I have a prosthetic eye I can take it out and everything wanna see?' (which seems to be how those conversations always go).
posted by goo at 10:22 AM on November 22, 2007

I was born that way (peripheral vision but no foveal vision in my left eye). I drive fine, parallel park acceptably, and generally stay away from sports involving projectiles coming towards me at high speeds. I am also not very good at moving ladders or threading needles. And I can't enjoy 3-D movies (sorry, Beowulf). However, I think I am a pretty decent photographer, because it's no effort at all to think in 2 dimensions.

Your friend may take some time to get used to it, but he'll be fine.
posted by matildaben at 1:05 PM on November 22, 2007

My mom is blind in one eye, due to an ischemic CRVO - basically a stroke in her eyeball. The main thing that she has had to adjust to is lack of depth perception.

She still is extremely active, is able to drive, piece together quilts, garden, etc.

She suffers quite a lot of stress over worries about something happening to her other eye - I would say that this is the biggest emotional issue.
posted by Ostara at 3:57 PM on November 22, 2007

There are a number of legal cases about people with monocular vision that describe daily life in detail. Here's one (pdf, may require findlaw login). I'm citing this only for the info on monocular vision -- the legal analysis is all jacked up. (The dispute was about commercial driving -- all of the plaintiffs had regular driver's licenses. The appellate court rejected the expert analysis that a monocular driver with one good eye and peripheral vision in the other eye is safe because "something" could get into the good eye.)

Excerpts from Ninth Circuit's 2005 opinion:

Monocular vision generally results in a decrease in peripheral vision: An average monocular individual has a field of view that is 10 to 40 degrees less than the field of view of an average binocular individual. EEOC v. United Parcel Servs., Inc., 149 F. Supp. 2d 1115, 1142 (N.D. Cal. 2000) (“EEOC”), rev’d in part, 306 F.3d 794, 797 (9th Cir. 2002); see also id. (“Normal binocular vision spans a field of view of 160 to 180 degrees, whereas normal monocular vision spans 140 to 150 degrees.”). Central vision acuity, on the other hand, is not affected by lack of vision in one eye—a monocular individual with 20/20 vision in one eye can see as well looking straight ahead as a binocular individual with 20/20 vision. See id. at 1141-42.

Other than decreased peripheral vision, the primary difficulty that monocular individuals experience is with near-field depth perception. “Individuals who can see out of only one eye are unable to perform stereopsis, the process of combining two retinal images into one through which two-eyed individuals gain much of their depth perception, particularly at short distances.” Albertson’s, Inc. v. Kirkingburg, 527 U.S. 555, 566 n.12 (1999). The inability to perform stereopsis can affect a range of near-field activities, including working with tools. See, e.g., EEOC, 149 F. Supp. 2d at 1146, 1151, 1153. On the other hand, monocularity usually does not impair depth perception at a distance. “In their distance vision, monocular individuals are able to compensate for their lack of stereopsis to varying degrees by relying on monocular cues, such as motion parallax, linear perspective, overlay of contours, and distribution of highlights and shadows.” Kirkingburg, 527 U.S. at 566 n.12.


Intervenors have explained that their monocularity—and, in particular, their inability to perform stereopsis—makes a variety of close-range activities difficult for them. Akins and Wilson stated, in affidavits submitted in response to UPS’s motion for summary judgment, that they are “unable” to perform or “have great difficulty” performing near-field tasks, including “inserting small objects into small holes or slots, screwing small objects into or onto another, tying knots, catching small objects, pouring liquid from one container to another, striking small objects and manipulating small tools or objects,” without using their sense of touch and feel to substitute for their lack of depth perception. Hogya testified that, although he has trained himself to do most of the things that are important to his everyday life, he still “does not do things as fast as other people or as well” and that “there’s always something new that comes up to me that is different for me, and it does place a difficulty on me.” EEOC, 149 F. Supp. 2d at 1151; see also id. at 1146 (describing Francis’ difficulties with certain near-field tasks, including handling tools).


The district court concluded that “the literature generally supports the proposition that monocular drivers as a whole are involved in more accidents than others as a whole,” although “not dramatically more.” EEOC, 149 F. Supp. 2d at 1144. In particular, the district court recognized that peripheral vision plays an important role in avoiding accidents and that “the monocular driver has less opportunity to see a child or any other pedestrian or cyclist or car darting from the impaired side.” Id. at 1142 (emphasis omitted).


Yet, although significant risks are posed by the absence of peripheral vision in one eye, not all monocular individuals lack peripheral vision in the affected eye. Hogya, for instance, has “useful sight in [his affected] eye at the periphery.” Id. at 1151. And the district court found that the absence of central vision acuity in one eye does not affect an individual’s ability to drive safely, so long as the individual retains peripheral vision. Id. at 1142, 1144. According to the expert evidence relating to central-vision acuity, the court found, “one excellent eye is as good as any two.” Id. at 1142. We agree with UPS that, for purposes of FEHA’s safety-of-others defense, this finding is clearly erroneous. The Vision Protocol requires drivers to retain visual acuity of at least 20/200 in the affected eye because 20/200 vision is the threshold for “gross object perception” and, thus, “even in the case of a [driver] getting something in the better eye, he/she would still be able to get to a safe stop until the vision cleared in the better eye.” Id. at 1131; see also Orange County, 1982 WL 36770, at *6 (finding that people with 20/200 or worse uncorrected vision pose a significantly greater danger to others while driving patrol cars).
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 2:13 AM on November 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The MetaTalk thread reminded me to come back here and thank everyone for the answers. We showed him the thread and he feels better about his future.
posted by creasy boy at 6:52 AM on November 30, 2007

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