Do you have difficulty seeing at night? Night blindness is common among
older drivers, but trouble seeing at night can also be caused by a number
of eye conditions that affect people of all ages.
Despite the name “night blindness,” the condition does not
mean that someone becomes completely blind at night. Rather, an individual
with night blindness may have difficulty distinguishing between objects
at night or see halos around lights at night.
Night blindness is most dangerous when someone who has trouble seeing in
the dark gets behind the wheel of a car. Headlights of oncoming cars and
streetlights on the road can make it especially difficult to see clearly
and drive safely.
Causes of Night Blindness
There are a number of eye conditions, vitamin deficiencies and chronic
diseases that can affect your night vision and ability to see while driving
at night, including:
•Age:As we age, our pupils don’t dilate in the dark as much as they should,
thus reducing the amount of light that enters our eyes. The corneas also
become less clear with age, increasing the amount of glare you may see
and reducing contrast sensitivity, which can make it difficult to distinguish
between objects at night.
Presbyopia develops with age and can make focusing and adjusting to light changes
more difficult. It may also make driving at night or in the rain more
challenging for older adults.
Glaucoma is a buildup of pressure in the eye that can affect peripheral vision.
Without peripheral vision, it is difficult to see what is going on around
you, which is especially dangerous while driving.
Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye, which blurs the field of vision
and makes it difficult to see objects clearly. Cataracts may further inhibit
nighttime driving vision as many with cataracts describe much difficulty
with glare and halos from oncoming headlights.
•Diabetic retinopathy: A condition in the back of the eye caused by diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy can cause a significant loss of vision and is the leading cause of retinal
blindness in adults ages 20-64.
•Retinitis pigmentosa:An uncommon genetic disorder in which dark pigment collects in the retina,
creating tunnel vision. This condition typically affects people under
30. Worsening night vision is one of its earliest symptoms.
Nutritional deficiency:A deficiency of vitamin A and zinc can also contribute to night blindness.
Although it’s rare, not getting enough vitamin A in your diet could
affect your night vision. Zinc helps the body absorb vitamin A, so without
zinc, vitamin A is not as effective.
Sun exposure: Without proper eye protection, sun exposure can temporarily impair night
vision for up to two days. Wearing sunglasses that protect against UVA
and UVB rays will prevent temporary night blindness due to sun exposure.
Complications following LASIK eye surgery: Though it’s uncommon, a patient who has had
LASIK eye surgery may experience distorted night vision after surgery. The most common complaint
is seeing a glare or halos around lights at night.
Treatment for Night Blindness
Improving your night vision depends on the underlying cause of the condition.
If cataracts are the cause of your night vision problems, cataract surgery
should help improve your overall vision, including nighttime vision. If
diabetic retinopathy is the cause of your night blindness, controlling
blood sugars through medicine and diet can help prevent vision loss.
If you have any trouble distinguishing between objects at night, or if
you see halos around lights in the dark, let your doctor know. These may
be early symptoms of a more serious eye condition, and early diagnosis
may save your vision.
Are you having problems seeing at night? Contact the Dallas eye care specialists at
Key-Whitman for a comprehensive eye exam.