This technique helps you use your peripheral vision to look around blind spots in your central vision caused by wet AMD.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the most common causes of vision impairment. Globally, AMD affects more than 8% of people between the ages of 45 and 85.

Most cases of AMD are classified as “dry AMD,” which is further broken up into early, intermediate, and late stages, with progressively worsening symptoms from one stage to the next.

About 20% of cases of AMD are “wet AMD,” which is always late stage. If you have dry AMD, it can become wet AMD at any time.

Wet AMD occurs when irregular blood vessels grow into the macula, an area in the center of the retina. These vessels may leak blood or other fluids, which can cause scarring of the macula and affect your central vision. Wet AMD may cause vision loss more quickly than dry AMD.

If you find out you have wet AMD, there are treatments that can help prevent or reduce future vision loss, but it’s not always possible to restore all of your vision that has already been lost.

Eccentric viewing is a technique you can learn to make better use of the vision you still have. Let’s learn more about eccentric viewing and how it relates to wet AMD.

Eccentric viewing is a technique that can help you make the most of your remaining vision.

Vision impairments due to wet AMD may include dark or fuzzy patches in your central field of vision, blurriness, or wavy distortions.

These impairments can be distracting or even dangerous during activities such as driving or navigating an unfamiliar environment. They can also cause frustration or make it difficult to enjoy things like reading or cooking.

If these impairments are limited to a certain portion of your field of view, you can learn to use eccentric viewing.

Using this technique, you can train your eyes to look in a direction other than where you would otherwise look naturally. For example, instead of looking at another person’s face, you might look above, below, or to the side. This redirects the impaired part of your vision away and allows you to use instead a preferred retinal locus (PRL) — a new reference point for your adapted vision.

Wet AMD is caused by blood vessels growing in the back of your eye, where they’re not supposed to be. The growing blood vessels often leak fluid and cause permanent scarring, which can lead to irreparable vision loss, though quick treatment might prevent the blood vessels from continuing to grow and leak.

The location of the scarring in wet AMD leads to vision impairment in the center of your field of view. This frequently leaves peripheral vision unaffected. For this reason, some people with wet AMD may find eccentric viewing to be a meaningfully helpful strategy for engaging in everyday activities.

While it might feel most natural to look directly at what you want to focus on, this will only align your most impaired vision with what you’re looking at. Instead, you can learn to use eccentric viewing to use your relatively stronger peripheral vision as a means of focusing.

Training to use eccentric viewing may be difficult at first. For many people, eye movement and focusing are largely done unconsciously, and it will take effort and time to relearn these movements.

First, it’s important to determine which part of your vision retains the best functionality. Try sitting across from another person. Keeping your head still, look just above their head, below their chin, and to either side of their ears. At each of these points, concentrate on holding your eyes still while centering your attention on their face.

You can practice this same technique by holding a book at a comfortable reading distance or by looking at a photograph on your refrigerator.

You can expect to practice this technique for a few minutes at a time, several times per day. It may take several weeks before it starts to feel natural.

An expert, such as a certified orientation and mobility specialist, can give you professional guidance while you learn to use eccentric viewing.

The use of eccentric viewing for wet AMD is still an active area of research, though the technique is not a new one.

An older review from 2014 found that people with central vision loss — such as that caused by wet AMD — can use eccentric viewing to improve daily activities such as reading. However, the review couldn’t conclusively say whether eccentric viewing improved distance visual acuity (how well you can see things that are far away). It was also careful to note that more research was needed.

A more recent study found no significant benefits after eccentric viewing training. The study included people with many types of visual impairment, though, and noted that people with AMD might benefit from eccentric viewing more than people with other causes of impairment.

There is still not enough research on eccentric viewing to determine its effectiveness, but there is at least anecdotal evidence that it might be useful for some people with wet AMD.

Wet AMD causes deteriorated vision in the center of your field of view but generally leaves your peripheral vision untouched.

Eccentric viewing is one technique that can be used to take full advantage of your peripheral vision to see important details and focus your attention.

Eccentric viewing can be tricky to learn, but regular practice will make it easier, and an expert, such as a certified orientation and mobility specialist, can give you advice, training tips, and specific goals to help you achieve more functional sight.