Comprehensive Eye Exam

What is Night Blindness? How to See Clearly in the Dark

By Dr. Nathan Kluttz 

Nyctalopia, or night blindness, is an eye condition that makes it difficult for people to see in dark or dimly lit areas. For those with night blindness, navigating darkness is similar to driving with dim headlights or only using a few candles in a power outage. 

Symptoms of Night Blindness

Night blindness primarily affects your vision in the darkness, causing your eyes to struggle to adjust to dim light and making it more difficult to see objects or details in the dark. This lack of clarity in vision can make everyday activities more challenging when the surroundings are dark or dimly lit. 

Driving is one of the main tasks affected, as those with night blindness don’t have as sharp of vision as required to drive safely in dark environments. Bright LED headlights can worsen night blindness symptoms, as the intense glare from these lights can be overwhelming.  

What Causes Night Blindness?

Refractive Errors

Refractive errors like myopia (nearsightedness) and astigmatism are common causes of night blindness. Refractive errors impact how light enters and focuses in the eyes, and when light doesn’t correctly focus on the retina, objects become blurry. This can lead to night blindness, where even the smallest amount of light in a dark setting can result in excess glare. 

Ocular Nutrition

Vitamin A deficiency can also lead to the development of night blindness. This essential vitamin plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy eyes and sharp vision. If you don’t get enough vitamin A in your diet, your eyes may struggle to function properly, especially in low-light environments. 

Eye Diseases

Retinitis pigmentosa and other eye diseases can also cause night blindness because of their effects on the eyes. Retinitis pigmentosa affects the cells in the retina, gradually breaking them down and impacting your vision in dim or dark settings. 

Issues with the optic nerve, which connects the eyes to the brain, can also lead to night blindness. Because the optic nerve is a pathway for visual information, any damage to the nerve can hinder this transmission and impact the clarity of your vision at night. 

How to Treat Night Blindness 

If you’re experiencing the symptoms of night blindness, the first step you should take is to visit a Clarkson Eyecare doctor for a comprehensive eye exam. Your optometrist will be able to determine the cause of the symptoms and recommend the best treatment for your specific case. 

When night blindness is caused by a refractive error, corrective lenses such as glasses or contact lenses may be prescribed to correct the error and restore your vision. Your doctor may also recommend that you increase your vitamin A intake to support your overall eye health. 

For cases of night blindness linked to an underlying eye disease, your treatment plan may aim to manage the symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease. By doing so, your doctor can help you minimize night blindness symptoms and restore your vision. Regular eye exams and check-ups with your optometrist are vital when an eye disease is present. 

Can You Prevent Night Blindness?

If you are at risk for night blindness or are diagnosed with an eye disease or refractive error, it is essential to take proactive steps to prevent and manage the symptoms. To help clarify your vision at night, you can wear anti-reflective glasses to reduce the glare from bright lights. This is also particularly helpful for individuals who struggle with bright LED headlights while driving in dark conditions. 

To further safeguard your vision and reduce the risk of night blindness, maintain a healthy diet that includes foods rich in vitamin A such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and dark, leafy greens. Finally, ensure you continue to see your optometrist regularly to detect and treat any potential problems before they worsen. To take the first step towards clearer vision, schedule an appointment at Clarkson Eyecare

Summary

Night blindness impacts your ability to see clearly in darkness or dimly-lit conditions. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and available treatments is essential to minimizing its impact on daily activities like driving at night. By treating the underlying causes, wearing prescription eyewear, and adopting proactive strategies, you can improve your vision and easily navigate low-light conditions. 

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About the Author

Nathan Kluttz, OD

Dr. Nathan Kluttz, OD, practices full-scope optometry at the EyeDoctors Optometrists location in Ottawa, KS. Dr. Kluttz serves as the Area Medical Director, a position granted by the Medical Executive Board at EyeCare Partners. In this role, he helps hold our expert eye doctors to the highest standard and assists in onboarding our new optometrists.