During the day, you have perfect vision-either without glasses or with a little help from your prescription lenses. You can read clearly and see objects both up close and far away. But at night, you have a little more trouble, especially when you’re driving.
For instance, maybe as you wait to turn left at a light after sunset, you realize you can’t gauge just how far away an approaching car is, even though you can clearly see the headlights. You have to squint to see street signs or pedestrians in the crosswalk. You often see halos around headlights or streetlights that make it hard to see where you’re going.
After enduring this situation for weeks or months, you’re worried that you’re putting yourself and others in danger when you drive at night. You might even think you have to avoid night driving altogether and stay at home.
Does this situation sound familiar? If so, you’re not losing your sight, and you don’t have to stay off the roads after dark. You simply have nyctalopia, or night blindness. Usually, nyctalopia is just a symptom of another problem, especially nearsightedness. In some cases, it can be a side effect of medication or an indicator of a more serious problem or health condition, like diabetes.
Below, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about this issue so you can stop worrying and start seeing clearly again at night or in bad lighting.
What Causes Night Blindness?
Remember, night blindness isn’t a condition itself that requires specific treatment. Instead, it’s a sign of an underlying problem, which is why it’s crucial to visit an eye doctor as soon as you notice an issue.
Your eye doctor can assess your vision and figure out why you have difficulty seeing clearly at night.
Most frequently, nearsightedness, or the inability to see objects far away, causes the problem. If you’ve never been diagnosed with nearsightedness, you might not notice the issue as much during the day. At night, the lack of lighting aggravates the problem and makes it more difficult for you to see far away objects, especially cars traveling towards you on a dark road.
If nearsightedness isn’t the cause of your nyctalopia, one of the issues listed below could be to blame.
Less Serious Causes
In some cases, one of these treatable issues could cause your nyctalopia:
- Cataracts. Cataracts, or cloudy patches on your eyes’ lenses, can keep you from seeing clearly in low light.
- Vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A is a crucial vitamin for ocular health. It’s rare for people in the United States to lack this vitamin because it’s found in many of the foods you eat, including meat, fish, dairy, vegetables, and fruits.
These issues aren’t very serious and can be dealt with as needed to improve your vision. We’ll talk more about treatment options later in the blog.
More Serious Causes
It’s rare, but possible, that some less treatable conditions could cause your night blindness:
- Diabetes. Diabetes affects your eyes in a number of ways. Managing your diet can help you avoid eye-related issues, but if you have undiagnosed diabetes, your eyes could be permanently damaged in the meantime.
- Pancreatic or liver diseases. These two organs are vital to helping you absorb vitamin A.
- Retinitis pigmentosa. This genetic disease is usually passed on through families. It affects your retina and can keep you from seeing clearly in the dark. It also impacts your side vision and central vision.
These underlying issues are more serious and should be diagnosed as soon as possible. Unfortunately, retinitis pigmentosa can’t be cured, but it can be treated with glasses or surgery. Managing your diabetes or other chronic disease can help improve your night vision.
How Can You Treat Night Blindness?
Treating the underlying condition should successfully solve your inability to see well in the dark. Depending on the issue, your eye doctor might recommend one of these treatments:
- Cataract surgery. This surgery is relatively common and successful. Your ophthalmologist will replace the clouded part of your lens with an artificial lens that clarifies your vision.
- Glasses. Undiagnosed nearsightedness is incredibly simple to solve-just get the right prescription lenses and you’ll be able to see perfectly in the dark again.
- LASIK surgery. In some cases, your ophthalmologist might recommend LASIK surgery to correct your vision. Bear in mind that you won’t be able to see well in the dark as you recover from this surgery, but once you fully recover, your eyesight should be largely restored.
- Vitamin A intake. If for any reason you’re not getting enough vitamin A, your doctor will probably recommend that you eat more foods like cantaloupe and carrots, which are rich in vitamin A, and take cod liver oil supplements.
With a little help from your ophthalmologist, you can see better at night-and improve your vision all around, since you’ll be treating any underlying condition that decreases your vision.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of night blindness, get in contact with an ophthalmologist right away. We’re happy to provide exams, diagnose your problem, and recommend the right treatment.