Night blindness is also called “nyctalopia.” It’s a type of
vision impairment. People with night blindness experience poor vision at night
or in dimly lit environments. Although the term “night blindness” implies that
you can’t see at night, this isn’t the case. You may just have more difficulty
seeing or driving in darkness.
Some types of night blindness are treatable, and other types
aren’t. See your doctor to determine the underlying cause of your vision
impairment. Once you know the cause of the problem, you can take steps to
correct your vision.
Are the Symptoms of Night Blindness?
The sole symptom of night blindness is difficulty seeing in
the dark. You’re more likely to experience night blindness when your eyes
transition from a bright environment to an area of low light, such as when you
leave a sunny sidewalk to enter a dimly lit restaurant. You’re likely to experience
poor vision when driving due to the intermittent brightness of headlights and
streetlights on the road.
Causes Night Blindness?
A number of eye conditions can cause night blindness,
or blurred vision when looking at faraway objects
- cataracts, or clouding of the eye’s lens
- retinitis pigmentosa, which occurs when dark
pigment collects in your retina and creates tunnel vision
syndrome, which is a genetic condition that affects both hearing and
Older adults have a greater risk of developing cataracts.
Seniors are therefore more likely to have night blindness due to cataracts than
children or young adults.
In rare cases in the United States or in other parts of the
world where nutritional diets may vary, vitamin A deficiency can also lead to
night blindness. Vitamin A, also called retinol, plays a role in transforming
nerve impulses into images in the retina. The retina is a light-sensitive area
in the back of your eye.
Patients who have pancreatic insufficiency, such as
individuals with cystic fibrosis, have difficulty absorbing fat and are at a
greater risk of having vitamin A deficiency because vitamin A is fat-soluble.
This puts them at greater risk for developing night blindness.
People who have high blood glucose, or sugar, levels or
diabetes also have a higher risk of developing eye diseases, such as cataracts.
Are the Treatment Options for Night Blindness?
Your eye doctor will take a detailed medical history and
examine your eyes to diagnose night blindness. You may also need to give a blood
sample. Blood testing can measure your vitamin A and glucose levels.
Night blindness caused by nearsightedness, cataracts, or vitamin
A deficiency is treatable. Corrective
lenses, such as eyeglasses or contacts, can improve nearsighted vision
both during the day and at night. Let your doctor know if you still have
trouble seeing in dim light even with corrective lenses.
Clouded portions of your eye’s lens are known as cataracts. Cataracts
can be removed through surgery. Your surgeon will replace your cloudy lens with
a clear, artificial lens. Your night blindness will improve significantly after
surgery if cataracts are the underlying cause.
Vitamin A Deficiency
If your vitamin A levels are low, your doctor might
recommend vitamin supplements. Take the supplements exactly as directed. Most
people in developed nations don’t have vitamin A deficiency because they have
access to proper nutrition.
Genetic conditions that cause night blindness, such as
retinitis pigmentosa, aren’t treatable. The genetic defect that causes pigment
to build up in the retina doesn’t respond to corrective lenses or surgery.
People who have this form of night blindness should avoid driving at night.
Can I Prevent Night Blindness?
You can’t prevent night blindness that’s the result of birth
defects or genetic conditions, such as Usher syndrome. You can, however,
properly monitor your blood sugar levels and eat a balanced diet to make night
blindness less likely.
Eat foods rich in antioxidant vitamins and minerals, which
may help prevent cataracts. Also, choose foods that contain high levels of
vitamin A to reduce your risk of night blindness. Certain orange-colored foods
are excellent sources of vitamin A, including:
- sweet potatoes
- butternut squash
Vitamin A is also in:
- collard greens
What Is the
If you have night blindness, you should take precautions to
keep yourself and others safe. Refrain from driving at night as much as possible
until the cause of your night blindness is determined and, if possible, treated.
Arrange to do your driving during the day, or secure a ride
from a friend, family member, or taxi service if you need to go somewhere at
night. Wearing sunglasses or a brimmed hat can also help reduce glare when
you’re in a brightly lit environment, which can ease the transition into a