Night blindness is 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 disorders or conditions that affect the cells in the retina that are responsible for vision in dim light (cones). Examples include: Common vision disorders, such as difficulty seeing or focusing on distant objects (nearsightedness)Cataracts, which are cloudy areas in the lens of the eye
Some forms of retinal degeneration, such as
retinitis pigmentosaPosterior uveitisCertain medications, such as those used to treat glaucomaVitamin A deficiencyBirth defects affecting the retina
Age is the most common factor that contributes to night blindness. Many eye conditions develop as people get older. Other factors that may increase the chance of night blindness include: Trouble adjusting from low levels of light to high levels of lightHistory of eye disorders, such as cataracts or glaucomaDiabetes (contributes to eye disorders)Family history of eye disordersGenetic mutations that contribute to eye disordersNot getting adequate amounts of vitamin A, which come from green leafy vegetables, eggs, and whole milk products.
Vitamin A deficiency is rare in the United States, but still occurs in certain less developed countries.
Disorders that affect the ability of the body to absorb vitamin A:
Liver or pancreatic disordersIntestinal conditionsGastric bypass surgery for obesity
Symptoms are difficulty or inability to see in low light or darkness, even with glasses or contact lenses. 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. A complete 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 removedTaking medications to treat eye conditionsUsing low-vision aids and making lifestyle adjustments
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 blindnessHave regular eye exams as advised by your eye doctorEating a diet with adequate amounts of vitamin A
Glaucoma and driving. Glaucoma Research Foundation website. Available at: http://www.glaucoma.org/treatment/glaucoma-and-driving.php. Updated April 1, 2013. Accessed December 9, 2015.
Night blindness. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/cole-eye/diseases-conditions/hic-night-blindness. Updated March 18, 2015. Accessed December 9, 2015.
Vitamin A. Office of Dietary Supplements website. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional. Updated June 5, 2013. Accessed December 9, 2015.
What is low vision? American Academy of Ophthalmology Eye Smart website. Available at: http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/low-vision.cfm. Accessed December 9, 2015.
Last reviewed December 2015 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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