Night blindness means having difficulty seeing in the dark or in low light. One of the most common issues with night blindness is difficulty driving in the evening or at night.
The Retina of the Eye
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Night blindness is caused by a disorder of the cells in the retina that are responsible for vision in dim light (cones). There may be several common causes:
Lack of vitamin A, which can cause a disorder of the retinaCataracts, which are cloudy areas in the lens of the eye
Some forms of retinal degeneration, such as
retinitis pigmentosaCertain medicationsBirth defects
Factors that may increase your chance of night blindness include: Age—Elderly people are more likely to have cataracts.GeneticsDietary deficiencies—Not getting adequate amounts of vitamin A, which come from green leafy vegetables, eggs, and whole milk products.
Vitamin A deficiency is very rare in the US, but still occurs in certain less developed countries.
Disorders that affect the ability of the body to absorb vitamin A:
Liver disordersSurgery on the pancreas or liverIntestinal conditionsBowel surgery for obesityGlaucomaDiabetesTrouble adjusting from low levels of light to high levels of light
Symptoms are difficulty or inability to see in low light or darkness. While driving, this may also occur a few seconds after the bright headlights of an oncoming car have passed.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. An eye exam will be done. A blood test can be used to test the amount of vitamin A in your blood.
Treatment depends on the cause of night blindness. Options may include: Taking vitamin A supplementsHaving cataracts removedUsing low-vision aids
Night blindness may require taking extra safety precautions when necessary. This may mean avoiding driving in the evening or at night.
To help reduce your chance of night blindness: Follow treatment plans for chronic conditions that may contribute to night blindnessEating a diet with adequate amounts of vitamin A
Beers, MH, Fletcher AJ, Jones TV, et al.
The Merck Manual of Medical Information.
2nd ed. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories; 2003.
Herse P. Retinitis pigmentosa: Visual function and multidisciplinary management.
Clin Exp Iptom. 2005;88:5:335-350.
Night blindness. Retina International website. Available at:
http://www.retina-international.org/index.php?menuid=42. Accessed November 10, 2010.
Last reviewed October 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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