Night Blindness (Nyctalopia) is a symptom of an underlying disease such as a retina problem. The blindness prevents you from seeing well at night or in poor lighting. There are many possible causes and treatment depends on identifying that cause.
Night blindness (nyctalopia) is your inability to see well at night or in poor light such as in a restaurant or movie theater. It is often associated with an inability to quickly adapt from a well-illuminated to a poorly illuminated environment. It is not a disease in itself, but rather a symptom of an underlying eye problem, usually a retina problem. It is common for people who are myopic to have some difficulties with night vision, but this is not due to retinal disease, but rather optical issues.
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Your eyes are constantly adjusting to light. When you’re in low or no light, your pupils (that black circle in the center of your eyes) will get bigger (dilate) so that more light will enter your eye. That light is then received by the retina – tissue in the back of your eye that houses all of the rod and cone cells. Cone cells help you see color. Rod cells help you see in the dark. When those rods are not working well because of a disease, injury, or condition, you can’t see as well or at all in the dark.
Night blindness has many possible causes, including:
To determine what is causing your night blindness, an eye specialist will perform a thorough eye exam and may order any of a number of specialized images, tests or exams.
Treatment for your night blindness depends on the cause. Treatment may be as simple as getting yourself a new eyeglass prescription or switching glaucoma medications, or it may require surgery if the night blindness is caused by cataracts.
If you have a retinal disease, the treatment will depend on the type of the disease and will require additional investigation by a retina specialist.
Night blindness cannot be treated at home. Medical advice is necessary so that the appropriate treatment, if any, is given.
You can’t prevent genetic predispositions, but you can alter your lifestyle habits. Try the following to possibly prevent night blindness:
Eat foods that have Vitamin A. Some suggestions include:
Get regular eye exams. See an eye specialist consistently so that they can figure out early if you have problems with your eyes.
Wear sunglasses. Sunglasses protect your eyes from the sun. UV rays increase your risk of cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma. Make sure that your sunglasses do the following:
Exercise. Exercise may reduce your risk of eye conditions. It may lower eye pressure and blood glucose levels.
If you struggle to see while you’re driving at night – or can’t see at all, or if you’re sitting in a barely lit restaurant and you can hardly see, you might have night blindness. See your healthcare provider right away because night blindness can be a symptom of a serious disease.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/01/2020.
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