10/28/14

As the number of daylight hours decrease and daylight savings time is about to end, many of us feel that the days are getting much shorter. If you suffer from night blindness, your days are shorter, because getting around or driving at night, are sometimes impossible.

Night blindness is a condition that makes it difficult for a person to see in low-light situations or at night. Some types are treatable, while others are not. You will need to consult your eye doctor to determine the underlying cause of your night blindness to determine what can or cannot be done.

night blindness
Courtesy of wikipedia

There are several things that could cause night blindness:
•Cataracts
•Genetic eye disease
•Vitamin A deficiency
•Diabetes
•Aging eye
•Sunlight exposure

Here is a brief look at each.
Cataracts – This is when the lens of the eye becomes gradually becomes clouded, reducing vision. Besides reducing vision at night you may also experience halos around lights. This is a treatable condition requiring cataract surgery and replacing your clouded lens with a clear artificial lens. Your vision should improve considerably.

Genetic Eye Disease – Both retinitis pigmentosa or Usher syndrome are progressive genetic eye diseases where the rods that regulate light, and cones that control color perception and detail die. Progressive night blindness is one of the first visual symptoms of these two diseases. Currently there is no treatment for them as there is no way to treat or replace the dying rods.

Vitamin A Deficiency – While rare in the US, it can be a result of other diseases or conditions such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis or problems with the pancreas. Options to help with the deficiency include vitamin supplements suggested by your doctor, or increasing your intake of orange, yellow or green leafy vegetables.

Diabetes – People with diabetes are at higher risk for night vision problems because of the damage to the blood vessels and nerves in the resulting in diabetic retinopathy. Not only can it cause poor night vision, it may also take longer to see normally after coming indoors from bright light outside. There is no cure, but controlling blood sugar levels with medicine and diet can help prevent developing retinopathy or help slow the progression.

Aging Eye – As we age several things happen to our eyes. Our iris, which regulates the amount of light going into the eye, gets weaker and less responsive. This can make adapting from light to dark more difficult and slower. Our pupils shrink slightly allowing less light into the eye. The lens of the eye becomes cloudier, as explained above in cataracts, limiting the amount of light into the eye. We also have fewer rods for light perception. Aside from cataract surgery there is no treatment for age-related night blindness. However, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat is the best way to slow the progression. Here is more information on how the aging eye is affected.

Sunlight Exposure – If your night vision seems temporarily worse after a trip to the beach or a day on the ski slopes, it probably is. Sustained bright sunlight can impair your vision, especially if you fail to wear sunglasses or goggles.

Night blindness due to genetic conditions or aging cannot be prevented. However if you protect your eyes from extreme sunlight, eat a healthy diet, and monitor blood sugar levels if needed, you can reduce your chances for night blindness.

As we head into the holiday season, you should know that some great sources of vitamin A include sweet potatoes, butternut squash and … pumpkins!

Susan DeRemerSusan DeRemer, CFRE
Vice President of Development

Night Blindness