Since humans are meant to be awake by day and sleep by night, requiring light to see clearly, it’s no wonder we struggle to see once the sunsets. For some of us, however, night blindness adds another layer of difficulty, especially in the twilight hours, in the midst of oncoming traffic, or in the rain.
In the optometry world, we refer to night blindness as nyctalopia. However, it’s not really a specific eye condition. Rather, the symptoms of night blindness and its challenges are linked to other vision problems. By correcting the underlying causes of your struggle to see at night, we can usually find the right solution so you can drive safely again after sunset.
Night Blindness Goes Beyond The Driving
Night blindness goes beyond driving and can also affect your mobility and safety at night. If you feel like you are bumping, stumbling, fumbling, or banging around more than normal when walking around your bedroom, bathroom, or house at night, schedule an appointment with your optometrist or ophthalmologist right away.
While driving unsafely presents obvious hazards, so do trip-and-fall accidents in the home. Protecting your vision and attending to any visual correction or treatment is essential for your overall health and wellbeing.
Underlying Causes Of Night Blindness (Nyctalopia)
Your trouble seeing clearly at night is most likely the result of one or more of the following, underlying causes.
- Nearsightedness (myopia). During the day, you may not realize just how nearsighted you actually are. The brain has an amazing ability to adapt to slow vision decline or a vision condition that was never detected in the past. However, once the light is gone, you are made uncomfortably aware of how little you can see beyond the immediate distance in front of you.
- Astigmatism. Sometimes, the cornea, lens, or outer layers of the eye are shaped like an oval rather than being perfectly round. This creates blurred or double vision. If you have astigmatism in either or both of your eyes, you probably have a much harder time seeing at night.
- Glaucoma. Glaucoma affects about 1 in 50 adults and is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in the United States. Early detection is key to preventing glaucoma’s advancement and maintaining regular treatment. Night blindness and halos around lights at night are both symptoms of the condition.
- Cataracts. Cataracts are another significant cause of vision loss, particularly in older adults and those with diabetes. The great news is that cataracts can be removed and some adults find they don’t even need prescription lens support if they are caught early and treated accurately.
Other common causes of night blindness include using outdated or inaccurate lens prescriptions, old or poorly maintained eyeglasses (all those micro-abrasions block vision and it’s more notable at night), nutrient deficiencies (yes! As with everything else, healthy diet and lifestyle choices protect your vision), infections or genetic eye conditions.
You May Have Night Blindness Or Poor Vision At Night If…
Schedule an appointment with your optometrist or ophthalmologist if you:
- Notice your depth perception is worse after sunset
- Stumble or bump into things more often than you used to
- Have a harder or longer time adjusting your eyes/vision when you move from a lit to a dark space
- Streetlights, headlights, and reflective markers are big, haloed blurs
- Shy away from driving after sunset
- Notice you’ve had more near-misses or little fender benders after sunset
- Have difficulty recognizing people’s faces in dimly lit places
- Avoid walking alone or going outside at night because of your difficulty seeing clearly
Any of the above warrants a mention to your physician or your optometrist, so s/he can help you find a solution.
Treatment For Night Blindness
Unless there is a more notable disease or latent condition causing your night blindness, odds are one of the following treatments will treat it and have you seeing clearly, and safely again, in dimly-lit settings or when you are outside during the nighttime hours.
New glasses or contacts
An accurate lens prescription is often the first and quickest solution to treat night blindness. In addition to a correct prescription, we’ll talk to you about lens features that help to prevent halos around lights and enhance nighttime vision.
If you find out your night blindness is the result of astigmatism, cataract, or other LASIK-friendly options, we’ll talk to you about the pros and cons of LASIK surgery to see if that would be the best, lens-free (or lens-reduced) option.
If your cataracts don’t qualify for LASIK options, we’ll discuss your cataract surgery options, most of which include a straightforward, 10 to 15-minute procedure. We take care of the first eye, let it heal for three weeks, and then bring you in for the other eye.
Other things you can do to support your difficulty seeing at night include:
- Keeping your windshield as clean as possible
- Focusing on the yellow/white perimeter road lines to keep you in the right lane
- Adjust your rearview mirror for night driving (read your automobile manual to learn more about this feature)
- Using motion-sensitive outdoor lighting for stairs, porches, and walkways
- Using light-sensitive night lights in your home’s hallways and frequent paths of travel
- Ask your mechanic to check your vehicles’ headlight alignment to make sure they’re centered and focused.
- Focus on vitamin A – foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squash, fish, dairy products, broccoli, and fortified cereals are great ways to help your body absorb vitamin A, which is essential to eye health.
Feel like your night time vision isn’t what it used to be? Take control of the issue by scheduling an appointment with us here at the Atlantic Eye Institute.