What is night blindness?

Even if you have adequate night vision, odds are that you have been in the car with someone at night who exclaims “I can’t see anything at night!”. Slightly decreased vision at night is to be expected, given the lack of light it is more difficult for our eyes to interpret our surroundings. When one suffers from more than a slight decrease in vision, night blindness is often to blame. Night blindness (or nyctalopia) is characterized by consistent reduced vision in dim or dark lighting. It is most noticeable when driving at night.

Night blindness definition

Night blindness is a disorder of the retinal cells that are responsible for vision in reduced lighting. It is a symptom of several different eye conditions. It can occur as a result of cataracts, myopia, certain glaucoma medications, retinitis pigmentosa, vitamin A deficiency, or it can occur congenitally.

Night blindness symptoms

As noted above, night blindness sufferers have a reduced ability to see clearly in dim light. This can make certain tasks difficult, particularly driving at night. It can also cause problems with walking through a dark room and adjusting to changes in light.

Night blindness test 

If you think that you may suffer from night blindness, see your eye care professional as soon as possible. Because nyctalopia is a symptom of many different conditions, your doctor will conduct a full eye exam in order to diagnose your condition. This exam will include questions and vision tests. You can expect your doctor to ask if the blindness occurred suddenly or gradually, when you first noticed the night blindness, how severe it is, and if you have any other unusual symptoms. Your doctor will also perform slip lamp and retinal exams to check for any damage to the structures inside of your eye, a refraction test to measure your eye glass or contact lens prescription, and tests to measure your pupil’s light reflex, ability to see color, and your visual acuity. You may need to take an electroretinography to examine the rods and cones (light sensing cells) of your eye.

Night blindness treatment 

Treatment involves treating the condition that causes the night blindness. For example, if night blindness is being caused by myopia, a more accurate eyeglass prescription will improve symptoms. Similarly, if cataracts are causing the blindness, treatment will include removing the cataracts. While treatments vary based upon the cause, there are lifestyle changes that you can make to alleviate some of the challenges that night blindness brings – driving at night in particular.

For example, cleaning your windshield and headlights and can help to minimize glare and maximize light when driving at night. Driving more slowly will give you more time to react to things that may be difficult to see. Wearing prescription glasses while driving can improve vision.

If you think that you may suffer from night blindness, make an appointment with your eye care professional as soon as possible and take extra care when driving at night.

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