What is Night Blindness?
Night blindness (nyctalopia) is 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 cannot see at night, this is not the case. You may just have more difficulty seeing and/or driving in darkness.Some types of night blindness are treatable, and others are not. Consult 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.
Causes of Night Blindness
A number of eye conditions can cause night blindness, including:
- nearsightedness: blurred vision when looking at faraway objects
- cataracts: a clouding of the eye’s lens
- retinitis pigmentosa: when dark pigment collects in your retina, creating tunnel vision
- Usher syndrome: a genetic condition that affects both hearing and vision
Older adults have a greater risk of developing cataracts. Seniors are therefore more likely to suffer from night blindness than children or young adults.
In rare cases, 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 diseases of the liver or pancreas sometimes cannot absorb large amounts of vitamin A. So, they are at greater risk for developing night blindness, according to Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC).
Patients who have high blood glucose (sugar) levels or diabetes also have a higher risk of developing eye diseases, such as cataracts.
Symptoms of Night Blindness
The sole symptom of night blindness is difficulty seeing in the dark. You are more likely to suffer from night blindness when transitioning from a bright environment to an area of low light. You are likely to experience poor vision when driving, due to the intermittent brightness of headlights and streetlights on the road.
Treating Night Blindness
Your eye doctor will take a detailed medical history and examine your eyes in order to diagnose night blindness. You may also be asked 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 called 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.
Treating 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 the developed world do not suffer from vitamin A deficiency because they have access to proper nutrition.
Treating Night Blindness Causes by a Genetic Defect
Genetic conditions that cause night blindness, such as retinitis pigmentosa, are not treatable. The genetic defect that causes pigment to build up in the retina does not respond to corrective lenses or surgery. People suffering from this form of night blindness should avoid driving at night.
Preventing Night Blindness
Night blindness that is the result of birth defects or genetic conditions, such as Usher syndrome, cannot be prevented. 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. Orange-colored foods are excellent sources of vitamin A, including:
- sweet potatoes
- butternut squash
Spinach, collard greens, milk, and eggs also contain vitamin A.
See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least
A cataract is a dense, cloudy area that forms in the lens of the eye. It develops at a slow rate and eventually interferes with your vision. You might end up with cataracts in both eyes, but they usually don’t form at the same time. Cataracts are common in older people. Over half of people in the United States have cataracts or have undergone cataract surgery by the time they’re 80 years old, according to the National Eye Institute.
Diabetic Retinopathy is a condition that occurs as a result of damaged blood vessels of the retina in people who have diabetes. Diabetic Retinopathy can develop whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. While you may start out with only mild vision problems, you can eventually go blind. Untreated diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common causes of blindness in the United States. It is also the most common disease of the eye in diabetics.
Abetalipoproteinemia (ABL) is an inherited condition that prevents the body from completely absorbing certain dietary fats. Without treatment, it can cause vitamin deficiencies that may have long term effects on your health. Dietary fats, and the vitamins they contain, are important for the growth and development of many of the bodies’ systems, including the brain.
This article is for informational purposes only, and is educational in nature. Statements made here have not been evaluated by the FDA. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Please discuss with your own, qualified health care provider before adding in supplements or making any changes in your diet. PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.